Paws For Thought: Making Provisions in your Will for a Pet
Posted on 18th July 2023 at 11:13
In Britain we are clearly a nation of animal lovers – according to recent statistics 53% of UK adults own a pet including some 8.2 million pet cats and 10 million pet dogs!
But what many pet owners don’t realise, is that (regardless of how much a part of the family they are) in the eyes of the law, their furry friends are considered property in the same way a car, jewellery and mobile phone is.
As a result, it’s not possible to leave a bequest to an animal under a Will but there are a number of other options for making provisions for pets in a Will.
The first decision to make is what happens to the animals – who they are to be given to and what is to happen to them?
While the simplest option is to leave your pet as an outright gift to a someone you trust, it’s vital that you check with the intended recipient whether they would be willing to assume this role, whilst an agreement may be easy to solicit when it’s only hypothetical, when faced with the reality, they may not be so keen. Bearing this is mind it’s always a good idea to select an alternative person just in case the first choice of carer cannot receive the bequest!
If you can’t find a suitable home for your pet, you could elect for a charity to take them in and find a new home in the event that you pass away. The RSPCA, for example, offers a Home for Life service where the pet is bequeathed to the charity under a Will and the RSPCA undertakes the job of finding a new home for it. (You can easily locate the RSPCA and its registered charity number)
You can also consider leaving an Expression of Wishes letter providing guidance around the care of your pet including the type of home environment that you may wish for them. This adds flexibility to the provision of care for an animal and it also gives you the ability to change your wishes in the future without necessarily changing your Will.
Pets are expensive. In the UK, people spend an average of £1,150 on their pets each year, and so you may wish to leave financial provision for your pet in the event of your death. But as it’s impossible to leave money directly to an animal because they lack legal personhood, it is necessary to leave such sums for the benefit of the pet. The simplest solution is to leave a sum of money directly to the beneficiary who is receiving the animal with a wish that it be spent for the animal’s benefit. However, please note if the money is given as an outright gift in this way, there is nothing to stop the beneficiary from spending the money on themselves as they will be the owner of it.
A possible solution is a discretionary trust which could be set up so that the beneficiary receiving the animal could be drip-fed funds by the Trustee’s of the estate – this gives more certainty to you that the whole of the fund set aside for Fido’s upkeep would be spent for the benefit of the pet and not on an exotic holiday. There would be more checks over the release of the funds by the Trustees who would have the discretion not to release the funds. The Trustees would also be able to withhold funds if the beneficiary declined to care for the pet.
Share this post: