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Money Monitor: How to include your pet in estate planning

Experts say there is a small, but growing percentage of pet owners who have expressed interest in making provisions for their pets after they are gone. These provisions can range from relaxed, informal arrangements to rigid, structured ones, with varying levels of risk. Managing partner of Hull & Hull LLP, Suzana Popovic-Montag, says Canadian law considers pets property, so owners can't bequeath houses, money or other assets to Fido directly. Instead, she says they must select a family member, friend or other person to become their pet's guardian. Owners could simply ask someone and come to a written or verbal agreement without involving lawyers or financial planners. A slightly more formal version provides an amount of money for that person through a will — with the understanding they'll use all or some of it to care for the animal. But a problem could arise in both scenarios when the moment comes for the appointed person to take the pet. A more iron-clad method involves creating a purpose trust within a will. That involves selecting a caregiver and trustee — ideally two different people to avoid conflicts of interest. The pet owner can leave behind specific instructions for the caregiver. For folks who don't have a willing benefactor to take their animal, some humane societies operate stewardship programs. This allows the owner's estate to surrender the animal to the society along with a specified sum of money. The organization then finds a foster home for the animal and eventually an adoptive one, with the promise the pet won't be euthanized.
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