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Where there's a will, there's a way to protect pets

Americans love their pets. According to estimates, just over two-thirds of us own pets. Here in Fullerton, that would mean nearly 100,000 pet owners live in our city.

One expression of a person's love and concern for the well-being of their pet is to provide for the care of the pet in their will. Another increasingly popular way is to establish a pet trust, which funds the care of the pet and names a trustee (who often doubles as caretaker).

With the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, the pet owner appoints a trustee, who then administers the trust and is required to act in the pet's best interests. It makes perfect sense, of course, that the pet owner chooses someone who also loves the animal and wants to care for it.

Forty-six states, including California, allow for the creation of a pet trust.

These trusts really aren't intended only for the wealthy, but rather for pet owners who want to ensure that future costs for food and vet visits are covered, and that their beloved friend in life is cared for after they are gone.

Nine percent of cat owners have created pet trusts or provided for their cats in their wills, according to the American Pet Products Association (that's up from just 6 percent in 2010), which is the same percentage as dog owners (up from 5 percent).

Experts say to be sure to talk to potential trustees or caretakers about your plans before including them in your will or estate planning documents. You can also designate the distribution of any leftover funds after the pet's passing to charities or people.

The trust can also take effect in the event that you are incapacitated.

To put these protections in motion, speak with an attorney experienced in the thoughtful creation of wills, trusts and other estate planning tools.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "More Americans Are Writing Their Pets Into Their Wills," Anne Tergesen, Jan. 12, 2014

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