Remember to include pets in your estate plans

Estate plans can be so complicated that you may unintentionally exclude something important. Just covering the basics, such as a will and power of attorney, can be overwhelming enough. Having legal assistance can relieve much of the burden and help you realize areas you need to cover.

One of these areas is pets. If you see your animals, from cats to horses, as part of the family, then you need to treat them as such in your estate plans to ensure their well-being in case you become incapacitated or pass on. Otherwise, they can end up without a home or worse.

Emergency care

First, set up immediate care in the event of an emergency. It does not need to be permanent; just find someone who is willing and able to care for your pets until long-term arrangements begin. Have a backup in case your first choice is out of town, sick or otherwise unavailable if the time comes.

Permanent care

A common mistake for pet owners is to assume a loved one will automatically take over the role of caregiver. However, no matter how much people may love your animals, people may not be in a position to care for pets. Talk to your family and friends to find out who can and will do the job and do it right. If you have more than one pet, you may have to find multiple homes. Again, find alternates in case circumstances change for those who originally volunteer. Give clear instructions on how to care for the animals, including what to do if they get sick or are dying.

After you have found your replacements, get everything down in writing to make the commitment legally valid. You can include this in your will, but a better option may be to set up a trust for your pet for the most security, advises the Humane Society. Caring for a pet requires a lot of money, and that money may be safest in a trust fund with a trustee ensuring its proper use.