Jennifer C. Rydberg, Attorney at Law
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Protecting pets in an estate plan

Many residents of Kent in the Seattle area have pets in their home. These pets are important members of the family and are loved and cared for by their owners. But what happens if these beloved pets outlive their owners?

When a pet owner dies or becomes incapacitated, their pets are often left behind and forgotten. These animals frequently wind up in shelters, which is a place that many owners would not have wanted them to wind up.

In order to prevent this from happening, there are steps that an owner can take. First, a pet owner can specify a person to become their pet's designated caregiver. A commitment in writing may be a good idea. A pet owner should write down all of their pet's specific needs, including food, exercise, veterinary needs, etc. An owner should also write down what they want their pet's standard of living to look like. A pet owner should set aside a fund to cover their pet's expenses. This could be a life insurance policy or a bank account that the caregiver would have immediate access to upon the owner's death. Pet care can also be arranged in a will or a trust can be established.

A legal professional who specializes in estate planning can help their client with all of their unique needs. Estate plans are not just important for those who are looking to pass on their assets, but estate plans can cover many other things as well. Pets are important parts of the family and pet owners do want them to be taken care of if they pass away. Estate plans can help with this and other important life decisions, such as guardianships, health directives, and living wills. These plans can help a person feel at peace knowing they have plans in place in case something happens.

Having pets included in estate planning can be reassuring to their owners. Pets are comforting and valued members of their family and having plans in place in case their outlive their owners is important.

Source: humanesociety.org, "Backup plan", June 20, 2013

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