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Yes, you can provide for a pet in your North Carolina estate plan

For some people, pets are a valued addition to a life without children. For others, a dog, cat or other pet is a critical companion later in life when your children have grown up and moved on. Regardless of how many assets you possess or what other heirs you are providing for in your will, you probably want to make sure that someone takes care of your beloved pet.

The thought of your companion animal ending up surrendered to a shelter or euthanized because no one would care for it is heartbreaking. Thankfully, North Carolina law actively provides an option for you to take care of your pet when you die. That is just one more reason why it's important to take the time to create an estate plan now.

You can create a special trust to protect your pet

No matter how much you love him, pets are not people. North Carolina does not allocate personal rights or property rights to animals. In other words, you cannot simply list an animal as a beneficiary in your will or estate plan. Doing so is an unenforceable step that could still leave your precious companion animal unprotected.

The law does allow you to create a pet trust that can provide for the care of your pet after you die. A trust is a legal document that creates a fund with specific requirements for the dispersal of any assets within it.

A trust intended to provide for a pet will generally limit what assets a trustee can access and mandate that their use goes to the ongoing care and medical needs of your companion animal. You can name one trustee, or several. Depending on the attitude of your family toward your pet, you may want to name an heir as trustee or perhaps a close friend who shares a bond with your pet.

Fund your trust now and plan for when your pet passes on, too

You can find a pet trust with any number of assets. Some people may choose to allocate a portion of their life insurance. Others may fund the trust with their home, allowing the trustee to live in the house for as long as the pet survives. Other times, the trust may be relatively small, with only a few thousand dollars.

Those funds can provide food and veterinary care for the life of your pet. When creating the plan, be sure to think about what will happen to the remaining assets when your pet dies, too.

Perhaps you want them to go to the trustee, as a way of thanking him or her for caring for your animal. In other cases, you may want the balance of the assets split between your heirs or perhaps to go to a charity. Whatever you choose, designating it when you create the trust is the best option.

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