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Are wills enough to provide for Massachusetts pets?

For many Massachusetts residents, their pets are part of the family. Therefore, it only makes sense to provide for them in the event of incapacitation or death, just like any other family member. Many people use their wills to give their pets a new home after their death, but that may not be enough.

First, precious time can be wasted in getting pets to their new homes while a will is in probate. Second, a will only applies after death. If a person becomes incapacitated through illness or accident, the immediate future of an individual's pets is uncertain.

Many people fail to think about their pets during the estate planning process. This is mainly because the domesticated animals people ordinarily have as pets tend not to live as long as their human owners. In a lot of cases, this turns out to be true, but no one knows when or if he or she will become incapacitated or die prematurely.

Pet trusts are a viable option that would be effective immediately in either instance. A person does not have to pass away for a trust to be effective. Further, any monies put into the trust to provide for pets can be controlled by the terms of the trust, which can reflect the wishes of the owner.

Regardless of whether Massachusetts pet owners use trusts, wills -- or a combination thereof -- to care for their non-human loved ones when the unforeseen occurs, it is crucial to determine the willingness of the person appointed to take over the care of the pet or pets. Simply assuming that someone is willing to take on this responsibility could prove disastrous for the pets. Once those issues are ironed out, any estate planning documents need to be properly executed in accordance with state laws to be valid when needed. If not, the time and effort put into making these tough decisions could all be for naught.

Source: wtxl.com, Pets And Estate Planning, No author, March 14, 2014

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