Creating an estate plan often involves serious discussion with your advisors about tax planning, asset protection, and charitable giving; but it is important to remember that at its core, estate planning is about protecting your family—and as this article in the Wall Street Journal reminds us, for many people the word “family” also includes our four-legged friends.

Some people will be tempted to roll their eyes and joke about Leona Helmsley at the mention of including your pet in your estate plan, but most will agree with article author Max Alexander that ensuring your pet will be taken care of after your death is not a frivolous indulgence but a simple matter of responsibility.

Providing for the care of your cat or dog does not necessarily mean leaving millions of dollars in a pet trust, what it really means is taking steps to ensure your pet doesn’t end up out on the street or in a cage in the local animal shelter. The Wall Street Journal suggests four simple steps pet lovers can take when planning their estate, including:

  • Choosing a “pet guardian”
  • Deciding whether or not to provide financial assistance for the care of your pet
  • Adding language to your will or trust regarding the care of your pet
  • Writing down a list of instructions for your caregiver

Over 50% of U.S. households own a dog or a cat. Those pet owners know that in return for companionship, love, and devotion pets rely on their owners for the basic necessities: food, shelter and protection. Why gamble with the future when ensuring their care can be so easy?