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For many Maryland residents, animals are more than just pets. They're a part of the family. This can be especially true for older individuals that live alone. However, pets are often overlooked in an estate plan. 

One woman died in her home at the age of 82. She lived alone except for a 12-year-old dog and an 11-year-old cat. Another woman left two cats without a caretaker after her death. Her niece was unaware that her aunt had cats, and the family was unprepared to take them in. A third woman's family was unable to retrieve her dog from a shelter after she was hospitalized because they did not have proof of guardianship. 

Each of these pets was taken to a shelter because the individuals in question did not leave instructions about what was to be done in the event of death or incapacitation. If family members cannot provide the proper documentation that proves guardianship, then the animals may be put up for adoption. Finding homes for these animals can sometimes be difficult. Older pets, especially, are difficult to rehome and are sometimes put to sleep as a result. 

Contacting an attorney can help to assure Maryland residents that their pets will be cared for in the event of their death or incapacitation. An attorney can help a client to create documents that name a guardian for the animals and gives instructions regarding what that guardian should do in different situations.To many, animals are so much more than pets or companions. They are a part of the family.

Source: sgvtribune.com, "Message from Pasadena Humane Society: Don't omit pets from estate planning", Julie Bank, Sept. 25, 2017

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