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Ohio pet owners: Don't forget to plan for your animals

Many of us know people who refer to their cat or dog as their four-legged child. Maybe that's what you call yours.

While they aren't children technically, pets certainly are a part of the family. Just as we provide for our children in the event of our death, many of us provide for our pets, too.

Some people ask their neighbors or a relative to care for their pets in the event of death. Other pet owners choose to formalize an agreement, just as they would make a guardianship arrangement for children. When people don't make provisions for their pets, they can wind up in an Ohio shelter after their owners die.

As you prepare to write down the provisions for your four-legged children, here are some things to think about:

  1. Name a caregiver and an alternate. The caregivers you select must be willing and able to care for the animal for the long haul.
  2. Leave money to finance the pet's care. Make a list of your annual costs -- including grooming, food and veterinary bills -- and multiply it by how many years you expect your pet will live. Add extra for expenses that could come up.
  3. Determine where you will keep the funds and who will be in charge of dispensing the money to the guardian. Will you create a pet trust? Will you buy a life insurance policy with the guardian being named as the beneficiary?
  4. Leave a detailed list of how you'd like your pet to be cared for: favorite foods, how often to feed, contact information for pet sitters and the vet and the pet insurance policy you might have purchased.
  5. Put the agreement in writing between you and the guardian and keep it with your will. Even if your will specifies your plan, it will take some time for the will to be probated. You'll want your pet to go to its new home right away.

It might seem simple to execute an agreement for your pet, but many legal issues can arise. Estate planning attorneys in Ohio are seeing such cases more often and can discuss the proper way to include your pet in your final plans.

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