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How to provide for pets in your will

You will need to include a pet clause in your Will

It is interesting to us that as we were putting Tipi Wills & Mediation together, this provision in a Will was considered very important by the older people we knew.  However, it was not well understood what the options are and how this works.  There are different ways on how you can provide for your pet and ensure they are looked after as you would like.  As ever with a Will, this can be complex and you cannot just leave any amount without ensuring certain things are taken into consideration first.   

We consider our pets members of the family.  In the eyes of the law, pets are considered property.  So, you cannot leave the pet an inheritance directly, but there are ways for you to ensure you can provide for your pet and they are protected. 

One thing you can do is to name a “pet guardian,”

You ought to consult the person you are going to ask to look after your pet first, particularly because there is no legal obligation for them to do so, even if you put it in your Will.  It is also a big responsibility to take on a pet so you need to check that they can do so.  You may then leave your pet to a person.  What you may also do is to leave money directly to that guardian to help pay for the care of the pet or as a thank you for doing so.  You must be specific in naming the pet and giving full details such as the breed.

If you prefer your pet to go to a shelter that specifically caters for your pet and ensures their appropriate rehoming after their owner dies, you may consider naming that organisation and you may leave them a donation for that too.  If there are specific wishes and needs surrounding your pet, about care, food, treatments, you may speak to us about how this may be done to ensure your wishes are carried out.  The wishes are not legally binding so it is wise to choose someone you trust who will look after your pets as you would like.

So, you know now that money cannot be left directly to a pet, so what do you do?  You may want to ensure you have left funds that may used only for your pet’s benefit and this is where an advisor like us can advise you on which route you can take.   So, you now know you can choose a pet guardian with a direct gift to that person, or an organisation with a donation to them, or another way is to establish a pet trust in your Will which ensures the funds are only used for the purposes of the pet. 

A pet trust

A pet trust can be set up in your Will in a similar way to other trusts.

When you set up a pet trust, you name a trustee. This person will most likely also be your pet’s guardian, as well as have the legal authority to manage your trust after you pass. They may also be able to take care of your pet if you fall ill and become incapacitated. Your trustee is obligated to use the money you’ve left in the trust for your pet’s care, according to your instructions.

When deciding how much money to allocate to a pet trust, there are things to consider such as your pet’s life expectancy, their expenses, and the likelihood of developing health issues.

In the eyes of law the sum you put into the trust must be considered reasonable and only for the purpose of looking after the pet. 

If you leave too large an amount of money in a pet trust, your family members may be able to challenge it in court and have it overturned.  If you have concerns about funds going to family members and would like to control that, please discuss that with us and we can advise on an appropriate plan to ensure your wishes are met.

The amount you decide to leave to the trust does not have a fixed limit but you must ensure that whatever amount you leave is realistic for that pet.  For example, the amount you might need to care for an elderly cat may be vastly different from the amount you would leave to care for a young horse.

It is possible that, where an inappropriate sum is left to the Trust, the entire gift could fail so it is best to consider what is appropriate. To help avoid this problem, you can add an additional clause to your Will which says where any left-over money from the trust should go, if it is not all spent before your pet dies. This is your choice and may be a gift to the person that acted as the pet guardian, another individual, or a pet charity.  We can ensure your Will provides for your wishes.

Adding new pets to your will

You will see from our information on this website, that you should keep your Will under review as a planning document by your side, as various life changes occur.  You may then use this opportunity when you review your Will to include new pets and new guardians.  Alternatively to adding new pets, you may use a clause which includes pets that you may own but haven’t named.  It is still a good idea to check this over each time you review your Will though.

So, it is good to understand what happens to your pet when you die and why you should make provisions for your pet

 

If you have a will that has given directions for pet care, your pet should go to the pet guardian you named. If you have a pet trust, your pet should go to your trustee or whoever you named as caretaker.

If you have a will, but it hasn't provided for your pet, then your pet will be considered part of you property and would go to your residuary beneficiary if they accept. This is the person you named to receive what’s left of your property after all your other beneficiaries are paid out.

If you don’t have a will at all when you die, then your property (pets included) are subject to “intestacy” laws. This typically means that a local probate court will appoint someone as the executor of your estate. That person will be responsible for deciding what happens to your pet. Unfortunately in these circumstances, pets are often put in shelters instead of given to family or friends.

 

That’s why it’s important for you to protect your pet in your will.

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