New trend among retirees: Including pets in their will

When it comes to planning your will, most people make sure their families and loved ones are taken care of. Now there is a growing number of people who are also taking steps to make sure their four-legged friends aren't forgotten by creating "pet trusts" to help care for pets after their owners pass away.

For BJ and Donna Jensen, their horses Tippy and Red are more than just pets.

"We come out here on a regular basis, so we can ride our horses," says BJ Jensen. "It's a passion we both enjoy, we've been involved with horses most of our lives."

"I love these horses," says Donna Jensen. I mean, they are our children. And like we would provide for our children, we provide for them."

And that means providing for them even if BJ and Donna are no longer here.

The recently retired couple, like a growing number of people planning their estate, created a "pet trust," a fund set aside specifically to care for their horses.

"It gives us a tremendous amount of peace of mind to know that after we're gone, people have followed our instructions to make sure these horses are cared for and loved just like we have for so many years," say the Jensen's.

The attorney who helped the Jensen's prepare the pet trust says it's not as uncommon as you might think, with animals playing such an important role in many people's lives.

"At first some people think - 'That's frivolous,' but it's not," says Leo Pruett with Frutkin Law Firm. "It's being responsible to the animal and to the people who take over to care for the animal."

"Tippy and Red have provided us with tremendous opportunities and memories that a lot of people only dream about.  It's important for me to know that they will have a good life – forever," say the Jensen's.

A recent survey showed 44 percent of pet owners have made plans for their pets after they pass away, but it's usually not in writing. Estate planners say the costs to set up a pet trust can vary depending on the health and age of the animal being cared for.
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