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Have you made a plan for your cat after you're gone?

Florida residents certainly do love their animals. If you have a dog or a cat that lives with you, you can certainly understand what it means to see your pets as real and valued members of your family. In fact, about 65 percent - or 80 million - of the households in America have a pet they take care of.

From an estate planning perspective, this raises a serious question: Who's going to take care of your lovely pet when you're no longer here to do so yourself?

A pet trust could be the solution you're looking for

Your human children have fundamental human rights that ensure they receive proper care by next-of-kin or a reliable person you indicate in your will. Your pets, on the other hand, are your property in the eyes of the law and are distributed accordingly to your heirs.

Because the law classifies your pets as property, they cannot own property on their own. As such, even if you want to leave $100,000 to your pet to ensure that there's enough money to pay for all of his or her needs after you're gone, you can't do this. However, you can create a pet trust for the benefit of your dog, cat, bird, iguana or some other kind of animal.

What kind of trust is a pet trust?

Pet trusts are usually organized as revocable living trusts. These trusts will include instructions for your selected trustee on how to administer the funds in the trust. In most cases, you will fund the trust with several thousand dollars - or more - exclusively for use in the care of your animal.

Contract a lawyer to help with your pet trust

If you'd like to create a pet trust, you may want to discuss the idea with a trust and estate planning lawyer. Most estate planning lawyers have experience drafting pet trusts, and they'll be able to advise you on the most appropriate solution for your and your family's needs.

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