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Couple on couch with dog
23 September 2015

Animals and Estate Planning

Clare Wootton

Senior Associate

For many people pets are an integral part of the family.   They rely on us and bring great pleasure to us by their company, but they can also be time consuming and expensive.

Accordingly when you are thinking about your estate planning, it may be necessary to think about planning for your pet’s future.

Important questions need to be considered such as:

  • Who will look after each pet if you die? It may be that your family’s circumstances simply won’t allow them to take on more animals, or they do not live in appropriate accommodation.
  • Will the pets (or small groups of your pets) stay together? If your pets are used to living together as a pack, separation could be particularly traumatising for them when they have already lost their pack leader.
  • What about arrangements for children and pets, if your appointed guardians cannot also take on family pets, will there be opportunities for your children to still see their pets?
  • Do you have any guidance for future owners/carers on how your pets are to be looked after?
  • If your pets may go to strangers for care, are there important things that carer needs to know?
  • What if your pet needs expensive medical treatment in the future?

After thinking about all these questions, you may be quite comfortable that your family or friends could take on this role without difficulty.

In the alternative, you may wish to provide direction in your Will as to their future care, and possibly even set aside a fund to assist with your pet’s care and future needs without placing a financial burden on the person who takes them on.

An example of how this could be addressed is the setting up of a simple trust under your Will which provides funds for the ongoing care of your animal, with a ‘gift over’ of any balance funds to a charity such as the Dog’s Home upon your animal’s passing.   This way the money is available (at the discretion of your executor) for care of your pet, but is not there as a ‘windfall’ for the carer should your pet die prematurely.

It may also be beneficial to record details such as likes/dislikes, health history, allergies, injuries, dietary issues, funny little habits and other information about your pets and keep this with a copy of your Will and estate planning information, so that whoever takes on caring for your pets gets the best possible head start to ensuring they are happy and healthy for the rest of their days.

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