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Joan Rivers' Estate Plan: $150M to Daughter, Grandson, Dogs

Under late comedian Joan Rivers' estate plan, the majority of her of $150 million fortune will reportedly pass to her daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper.

However, Rivers also made sure to include plans for her four dogs in her will, reports the New York Daily News. Though the $35 million New York City apartment Rivers lived in with her dogs is being sold by her daughter, Rivers' plan likely made sure that her longtime assistant Jocelyn Pickett -- who will act as the dogs' caretaker -- will have no trouble maintaining the dogs' upscale lifestyle.

Although your estate may be substantially smaller, how can you nevertheless ensure that your loved ones, and even your pets, are taken care of after you're deceased?

Can We Talk ... About Estate Planning?

Along with providing individuals the legal power to plan for their own medical care or end of life decisions in the event they are incapacitated, estate planning is also generally used to give individuals a similar power over the transfer or distribution of their money, property, and other belongings after their death.

This is usually accomplished through use of a will -- a legal document describing how and to whom particular items or a person's entire estate shall pass -- or the use of trusts, a more complex type of estate planning tool allowing greater flexibility, control and potential tax savings.

In some cases, a person may wish to use both a will and trusts. In other cases, a person may die without any estate plan in place, in which case their property passes under the terms of the state's intestacy laws.

Can You Include a Pet in Your Estate Plan?

If, like the late Joan Rivers, you have special pets that you wish to include in your estate plan, simply naming your pet in your will may be problematic, as pets generally can't own property. In light of that fact, many states have passed laws allowing for the creation of special trusts for pets called pet trusts.

Pet trusts generally name both a trustee and a caretaker for the pet, with the trustee given the power to dispense funds from the trust for use by the caretaker.

If you need to get started on an estate plan, or add a pet trust to an existing estate plan, an estate planning lawyer can advise you on the different legal options in your state.

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