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Estate planning often overlooks pets

When celebrities make the headlines, it is usually because they have done something outrageous, like leaving millions of dollars in a will to a pet. However, this gesture brings attention to a long-overlooked issue in estate planning: providing for a pet after its owner dies. In Oklahoma, pet lovers are turning to trusts to ensure their beloved friends are protected and cared for.

The sad truth is that many animals end up abandoned or relinquished to shelters after an owner dies because no arrangements were made for their care. With a trust, a pet owner can choose a guardian and arrange for funds to be set aside for the animal's care. A trust for animals is recommended over a will for several reasons.

First, a pet owner can be assured that the money left will be used exclusively for the care of the pet. Next, the trust will avoid months of probate during which time the animal's guardianship may be uncertain. Finally, a pet trust can be activated before the owner dies, providing a home and care for the pet if the person should become incapacitated.

Pets are considered personal property under the law and, as such, cannot inherit money, but a trust can offer a pet the kind of life its owner would provide if he or she were able. Since pet trusts should include a great deal of specific information, it is best to discuss creating such a document with an estate planning attorney. With the help of a lawyer, people in Oklahoma can create trusts that will express their wishes and provide for their beloved pets.

Source: birdchannel.com, "Long-lived Birds: 7 Easy Dos and Don'ts for Planning for the Future", Margaret Maffai, Accessed on Jan. 7, 2017

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