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Faithful companion: Can estate planning ensure care of a pet?

There was certainly a time when judges in California and across the country were uniformly disinclined in family law matters to spend more than a moment of time -- if any time at all -- considering the interests of Fido and/or Fluffy in a divorce matter. Pets were -- and still are -- deemed personal property. Courts have historically been a bit impatient with pet-related issues and averse to engaging in any best-interest analysis.

Things have been changing in recent years, though, and materially so, with courts and laws now generally conceding the importance of pets and the utility of legal instruments and arrangements geared toward ensuring their care under stated conditions.

That change has certainly been evidenced in the realm of estate planning and administration, with a growing pet-specific focus being buttressed by this very simple reality: Scores of millions of American individuals and families have pets, and they unquestionably love them and are driven to take steps to ensure their long-term care.

And that desire transcends the grave, so to speak. In recent years, a ratcheted-up interest in so-called pet trusts has been realized nationally, with estate planners coming to see the utility and effectiveness that a well-considered pet trust can have in providing for cherished animal companions.

A pet trust -- which a recent Forbes article on the subject notes is recognized all across the country and governed by the laws of the state where it is executed -- can be just about as complex or simple as a creator wants it to be. At its core, it requires funding, a named trustee and caregiver and other stated provisions that are material to care delivery.

Any person who has questions concerning any aspect of a pet trust should not hesitate to raise them with an attorney. A proven estate administration lawyer knows intimately well the central and loving role that a dog, cat or other animal plays in family life, and understands completely well why family members would want to ensure its well-being into the future.

Pet trusts are well established planning vehicles. Contact an experienced attorney to learn more about how they can promote the best interests of a creator and the much-loved companion they seek to protect.

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