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Include your 'fur-babies' when estate planning

Whether you're a cat-aficionado, a dog-lover or a fan of any other furry, feathery or scaly companion, it goes without saying that most pet owners in Colorado consider their pet to be one of the family. Many people take the step of executing an estate plan for the benefit of their human loved ones. However, pet owners will also want to keep their animal companion in mind when estate planning. After all, there are no guarantees in life, and it is possible that a pet could outlive its owner.

Generally, there are three different documents that a person can choose from to include their pet in their estate plan. Some people choose to put provisions regarding their pet in their will. Like property, a person can put language in their will leaving their pet to a specific relative or friend. Sometimes, a person can also choose to earmark money for the pet's care in their will. However, there is no guarantee that one's instructions in their will regarding their pet will be followed after they die.

Other people choose to execute a memorandum. This is a letter that is separate from a will. This may be an option if you need something put in writing quickly, and you do not have time to execute or modify a will to include your pet. However, state law varies as to whether a memorandum is legally binding.

A third option is a pet trust. In a pet trust, a person can set aside funds that are to be used only for the care of their pet. The pet will be named in the trust and a caretaker will be designated. Like other trusts, a trustee will have the duty of ensuring that your instructions are followed regarding how the funds are to be used and how your pet will be cared for. These documents can be complex, however, and having legal guidance is advised.

So, it is important to remember that it is not just relatives and friends that may outlive you. Your pet may outlive you, too. Since most pet owners want to see that their "fur baby" is cared for, they will want to include their pet in their estate plan. With the right estate planning documents, pet owners can see to it that their animal companion will be cared for should the unexpected happen.

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