Providing for a pet in your Will

‘Your pets are an important part of your family, but providing for them in your will is not as straightforward as providing for other family members,’ says Shannon Carpenter, a Solicitor in the wills and probate team  ‘Whilst a cat or dog might be relatively easy to care for, pets such as tortoises, llamas, or horses will likely require specialist care by someone who has sufficient time, knowledge and property to give your pet the care they need.’

Pets do not have a distinct legal personality and are technically belongings, but they sit in their own category between possessions and dependants and need to be considered carefully.

This means that you need to leave instructions about them in your will, and any financial provision you want to make for them cannot be a gift to the pet.

Leaving instructions about a pet in your will

First, you will need to consider what you wish to happen to your pet.

The most straightforward way is to leave your pet directly in the care of another person. This could be an existing owner of the pet, such as your partner or children, or it could be another family member or friend who does not currently share ownership of your pet. As with any gift in your will, you can leave your pets to whomever you wish and they do not need to know, or pre-approve, your intentions. However, a beneficiary of your will is not obliged to accept their gift and it can, therefore, be worth checking in advance that they are happy to take on responsibility for your pet.

Alternatively, you may prefer to leave your pet to a person or organisation for them to find the pet a suitable new home. You can state your wishes in regard to rehoming, but you should bear in mind that these would not be legally binding and the person or organisation would be ultimately responsible for deciding where your pet should end up going.

In the case of a larger animal, for example, a horse, it may be that they can be sold by the estate and the sale proceeds paid to your beneficiaries. Your executors will have the authority to sell the pet, and it can be useful to leave a separate letter of wishes to guide your executors as to how, where, when, and to whom you would like the pet to be sold.

A professional can help you to decide the best approach for your circumstances.

Financial considerations

Whilst you cannot leave money to a pet, you can leave money to the person who will become responsible for looking after your pet. Any such gift should be by way of a bare trust, to allow the person or charity to use the funds for your pet’s benefit, including food, vet bills, and other such essential costs.

You should think about an appropriate level of funds, as well as how flexible you want to be with the terms under which it can be spent, including any additional wishes you would like known.

Any money left in a bare trust for your pet’s upkeep will need to include a provision about what would happen to any remaining funds if your pet is no longer in need of the trust money. You might want this to revert to your family or friends, or you might want it to be passed to a charity of your choosing.

How we can help

Pets must be considered carefully within a will, and a well-drafted will, prepared by an expert, will ensure that all eventualities are covered.

For further information, please contact Shannon Carpenter in the wills and probate team.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

 

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