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You love your pets: Does your estate planning reflect that?

If you were asked as a pet-loving Arkansas resident for an estimate regarding how many cats and dogs live with families across the country as pets, what might you guess?

Ten million? Double that amount? Fifty million?

Any of those answers would be far off the mark. According to data released by a prominent national veterinary association relevant to a recent year, there are approximately144 million cats and dogs living with American families.

Are they loved?

You know they are (your pet might be sitting on your lap as you read this). One estimate on the collective national outlay for pet care received in vet clinics -- again, this relates to just dogs and cats -- is about $23 billion.

Yes, that's with a "b."

A writer in a recent Forbes piece asks a very pointed question regarding those loved animals: What happens to them if you die and they are still alive?

They still need care, right?

As noted in the Forbes article, it is far from uncommon these days for caring and reflective pet owners to address the needs of their pets and seek to provide for them through thoughtful estate planning.

Increasingly, that can mean a pet trust, which is a legal document recognized in Arkansas and every other state.

A pet trust is governed by state law, which Forbes points out as being a strong reason why any would-be trust creator would want to avoid using an online "boilerplate" form to save a few bucks.

"We recommend the attorney who prepares your other estate documents," notes Forbes, given that -- as is true with every other aspect of estate planning -- estate administration is a specialized and technical area of law that can quickly reward experience and punish incompetence.

A pet trust can be as complex as a Rubik's cube (hotel owner Leona Helmsley's multi-million-dollar pet trust likely was). Conversely, it can also be a relatively simple document setting forth key instructions, naming a trustee and caregiver (this might even be the same person), and providing funds for continued care.

A proven estate planning attorney can provide further information.

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