So many Americans are pet owners, and estate lawyers in Atlanta have various ways of helping their clients to care for these pets. To be honest, it’s pretty common to overlook the potential need to plan for a pet after your death, but it’s something that more and more people are recognizing as an integral part of their own estate planning process. Most of the time, a person just assumes that their children or a friend will simply take the pet into their home, but that may be an overly-optimistic plan. Instead, it might make better sense for pet owners to spend a little time with the estate planning lawyer to put plans in place for the animal’s long-term care and happiness. The methods for setting up this kind of plan can vary. You and your attorney may feel that it’s reasonable to simply outline your wishes in the will. On the other hand, you may prefer to create an actual “pet trust” that not only lays out your wishes but also funds them.

Choose a Guardian

Probably the most important aspect of estate planning for pets is to choose a guardian. This is the person or people who will care for your companion animal if you die or become incapacitated. It’s really important to talk to this person in advance and ensure that he or she is willing to take on the responsibility. You wouldn’t want to leave your sweet pet to someone who resented it or didn’t care for it properly. One approach is to create a reciprocal agreement with a friend in which you both agree to take the other’s pet should the need arise. If you don’t have an actual person in mind to become your pet’s guardian, you might want to contact the local humane society. Some of them have entire programs in place to help your pet get adopted into a good home after your death.  To take advantage of these kinds of programs, you need to enroll in advance, so talk to your estate planning lawyer to find out what kinds of organizations might offer these services in Atlanta.

Paying for the Pet

As mentioned above, you may choose to leave money in a pet trust in order to care for the needs of your pet. This money would be used for food, bedding, toys, and vet services, as you estimate they would be needed for the lifespan of your animal. Some pet owners also choose to include a small stipend for the person who takes on the responsibility of caring for the animal. This is a personal decision, however, and not a necessity. Finally, make sure that your friends and family are aware of your plans for the pet. That way, the animal can get to his or her new home right away, without either being left alone or ending up in a different family than you intended. If you’d like more information on the importance of planning for your pet in the event of your death or incapacity, please ask for our pet planning brochure at GeorgiaPetTrust.com.

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