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Including pet care provisions in your estate plan? When British songbird Dusty Springfield died in 1999, she left more than just a legacy of pop hits. She also left a last will and testament that provided quite handsomely for the continued care of her beloved cat, Nicholas....
Barking Beneficiaries Including pet care provisions in your estate plan?

When British songbird Dusty Springfield died in 1999, she left more than just a legacy of pop hits like Son of a Preacher Man. She also left a last will and testament that provided quite handsomely for the continued care of her beloved cat, Nicholas.

Among other things, Springfield directed that her 12-year old feline be ensconced in a specially designed indoor tree house fitted with scratch pads and catnip, and pampered with a diet of imported American baby food.

It’s likely you consider your pets to be full-fledged members of the family. And you’ve probably wondered what would happen if you weren’t around to take care of them. Can you include provisions for a pet in your estate plan? Indeed you can – and you probably should.

“Laws are evolving in many states to specifically allow provisions for the care of pets after their owners’ lifetimes,” says Missouri attorney Mark Langworthy. “The difficulty, historically, has been that animals have been legally classified as property…and you can’t leave a gift to a piece of property. But the Uniform Probate Code, which is a guide that many states follow in whole or in part, now expressly recognizes trusts for pets.”

You will need to consult a lawyer to determine which provisions are valid where you live and what type of plan is appropriate for your personal situation, but without question you can create a will or trust that will help ensure your dog, cat or other pet lives happily ever after.

One of the key decisions, Langworthy notes, is to decide who will care for your pet when the time comes. “You’ll certainly want to have conversations with any prospective caregivers to be sure they are open to taking on the responsibility, and you will also need to be sure your estate plan provides them with the resources needed for your pet’s ongoing care.”

Sadly, many pets are euthanized following the death of an owner, while others are passed on to people who may not have an adequate level of care and concern. You probably won’t find a future caregiver who is the perfect match for your pet – after all, that person is you! Chances are, though, you have a trusted family member or friend who would be willing and able to care for your pet in a way you would accept.

A thoughtful, comprehensive estate plan is important for many reasons. It may be unpleasant to think about your future demise, but knowing everything will be in order – especially with your beloved pet – will give you tremendous peace of mind.

This article is brought to you by Pet Genius. To learn more, visit www.petgenius.com.

Jim Ray lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, two children, and a very self-assured West Highland Terrier. He is a professional writer, fundraiser, and philanthropic consultant.