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Addressing a pet's care during and after probate

Recently, fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld passed away at the age of 85. Among the many details of his estate, which is estimated to be worth $300 million, is the fact that Lagerfeld reportedly included his cat in his will.

Pet owners here in Illinois may feel inclined to make similar decisions when it comes to their estate plan. As such, while your loved one's pet may not stand to benefit from a multi-million-dollar estate, there will likely be pet-related details you will need to address during probate. Below are some tips to make this a little easier.

  1. Check the owner's will. In Illinois, pets cannot inherit money or property. However, a person may earmark certain funds specifically for the care of the pet. This could be through a trust or through a gift for a caretaker. An owner may have also named a caretaker or facility to take ownership of the animal. As such, checking the will for such direction can help people make many pet-related decisions.
  2. Identify an appropriate caretaker right away. Until you locate the will -- or if there is no will in the first place -- loved ones may need to volunteer to take care of a bereaved pet. The person who takes in the animal should be responsible and compassionate; he or she should have adequate space and resources to care for the animal. If no one can or will take in the animal, it could end up in a shelter or potentially euthanized.
  3. Find long-term solutions. In some cases, without a will, a temporary care provider ends up keeping an animal indefinitely. Though, this is not always the case. Other long-term solutions can include adoption by someone else or placement in a sanctuary or "retirement home" for pets. 

Pets may be property in the eyes of the law, but animal lovers know that pets are loving companions that are more like children than a piece of furniture. And they can suffer when their owner passes away. As such, it is important to identify swift, kind resolutions during probate to ensure pets receive the care and support they deserve.

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