“You thinks dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you; they will be there long before any of us.”
Whether or not you agree with Robert Louis Stevenson, pet and animal lovers need to consider what should happen to their best friend if they should die before the animal.
One thing that is often overlooked is pets in Wills. Although it may seem crass, under the law pets are treated the same as any other item you own. This means that if there is no specific provision for them, they will form part of your estate on death and without specific provision they will pass to anyone to whom you leave your estate in your Will.
Practically speaking it is likely that those you leave behind will have a conversation about who will be taking on your pets if they are not specifically mentioned. However, this runs the risk of disagreements or they may instead decide to sell or rehome them. By making a specific provision you could avoid this by outlining precisely who you would like your pets to go to. You could also leave them some money to be used for the care of your pet.
There are several options of how to do this so as to provide you with the peace of mind that your furry, scaly or feathered friends will be cared for after you pass. This ranges from adding a provision in your Will specifically gifting your pet to an individual or writing a letter of wishes alongside your Will which outlines what you would like to happen. This can be useful if you have a pet with additional needs such as a special diet or medication. Should you create a discretionary trust under your Will for other (human) beneficiaries, a letter of wishes can also be used to ask the trustees to provide for your pets using the same trust. Alternatively, a trust can be created specifically for the pets themselves. This is called a trust of imperfect obligation as the beneficiaries of the trust (your pets) cannot legally enforce it. Money can be left under the trust for the maintenance and upkeep of your pets but this can only run for a maximum of 21 years.
Some considerations to take into account when deciding what to include in your Will are:
- Who would you want to take care of your pet after you pass?
- Are they in a position to provide this care? For example, your beloved hamster may need less care than your prizewinning pot-belly pigs.
- Would they need any additional money from your estate in order to provide this care? For example, you could leave a lump sum to cover any pet related expenses. Think of how much you spend for your pet’s upkeep currently and consider if the person you are leaving your pets to would have the funds to cover those additional expenses.
- Is there a particular way that you wish them to be cared for? Such as a special diet they need to follow.
What is most important is to have a conversation in advance with the person to whom you’d like to leave your pets, in particular if they may require higher levels of care; for example if you have a passion for beekeeping, your friend or relative may not be thrilled to be left 8 hives of bees to tend to after you pass if they have no prior knowledge or experience with bees, or have a severe allergy to bee-stings.
The above applies to any type of pet so you are just as justified making provisions for your entire stable of horses as you might be a solitary (but cherished) goldfish.
Ultimately, it comes down to adding that additional peace of mind that your pets will be well cared for after you pass. If you would like more information about how you could provide for your pets in your Will or if you would like to book an appointment to do so please visit our making a Will page.