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Estate planning for trickier assets like pets and airline miles

It is easier to pass on some of a Massachusetts resident's assets than others. Some property requires extra steps during estate planning in order to properly distribute them after death. Two of these items are pets and airline miles.

Nowadays, pets are treated like members of the family. In fact, all but one state has passed "pet trust" legislation. Therefore, if you appoint someone in your will to take care of your pet or pets upon your death, that provision is enforceable by a Massachusetts probate judge. Money may also be left to care for the pet.

Another way to provide for a pet is through a pet trust. The trustee can either take care of the pet or assign someone else to do it. This is because pets are considered property and will be owned by the trust, not the trustee. Money is put into the trust to pay for the pet's incidentals.

Arranging care for the family pet may be easier than dealing with airline miles. As it turns out, most airlines do not allow miles to be passed on to family members. Leaving them to someone in your will or trust does not change that fact. Therefore, it may be best to use them during life for the individual and family members.

Estate planning can handle a variety of unique situations, including the family pet. Deciphering how to pass on certain assets -- if they can be passed on at all -- would most likely require the assistance of counsel familiar with estate planning issues. Taking the time to ensure that everything is in order from the start will help prevent family members from having to go to additional time and expense to deal with one or more assets after death.

Source: Time, "Estate Planning: Difficult Items to Pass On to Heirs", Kara Brandeisky, Sept. 2, 2015

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