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Pet's future care can be addressed in estate plan

Putting together an estate plan in Maryland is a proactive way to protect one's assets in the event that one's death. In an estate plan, a person can spell out who will receive certain assets. People can even securely leave items for their pets if they wish.

Provisions that left cash to pets have been unenforceable in the past. For instance, if a woman gave $10,000 to her friend Mike to care for her dog, there was nothing legally in place to stop Mike from simply using the money for his own purposes and abandoning the dog. However, this is no longer an issue.

The state of Maryland, along with most other states, has passed what is known as a pet trust law. This means that a person can add a line to his or her will explaining who will take the pet as well as how much cash is being provided for the animal's care. The probate court will then appoint an individual to enforce this provision. People can even draft detailed pet trusts where they name their pets' caretakers and the trustees, set aside cash for vet bills and food, and provide pet care instructions. Since the trust owns the pet, the trustee can assign care to another party if the appointed caretaker fails to meet the standards of the person who set up the trust.

Developing an estate plan ensures that when a person passes away, as much of his or her property as possible will go to those individuals whom he or she has chosen to receive them. An individual's estate may include homes and even investments. An applied understanding of the law may help people successfully complete a well-thought-out estate plan in Maryland.

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

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