Often people are concerned about what will happen to their much loved pets if something were to happen to them. It is becoming increasingly popular for people to plan for their furry, scaley and feathery “kids” in their estate planning documents.
There are multiple ways that people can take care of their furry family, both during their lifetime and after they have passed away.
Informal arrangements for your pets and wills
The first option is to discuss animal care and arrangements with family and those close to you and let them know what your wishes are. Whilst this is informal, it is important to gauge people’s opinions and make sure they are willing to give effect to your wishes should the worst happen.
It is important to remember that people’s circumstances can change. People move to accommodation that is unsuitable for animals or have children and the practical implications of them caring for your pets becomes unsustainable. When it comes to most estate planning, it is always important to have a backup plan.
Power of Attorney and provision for pets
A power of attorney is a document that deals with who is able to manage your finances in the instance that you lose where you are unable to do so yourself (even in a temporary situation) or where you just want someone to help you manage your finances. Ordinarily, an Attorney must not use your funds for anyone else’s benefit unless you have expressly permitted them to do so in the Power of Attorney itself. Contact a power of attorney lawyer for more information.
Third parties can also include domesticated animals, so a provision can be inserted into the Power of Attorney permitting your Attorney to use your money to care for your pets if you have lost capacity.
Are pets property?
Domesticated animals are treated as property when you pass away. They are regarded in law as our other personal and moveable property (chattels). As such you can tell your solicitor for wills to include them in your will and to make provisions for both them and their care. You can therefore decide who you will leave your pets to when you die and you can also set aside a pool of funds for your pets’ care throughout their lifetime.
Some Common Questions about pets and Wills
Can I leave money to my Pet?
As pets are deemed under the law to be your property, they are not able to directly inherit under your Will. You cannot leave money directly to your pet. Similarly, they cannot be registered owners of property and as such you cannot gift them property under your Will.
How Can I look after my pet after my passing?
1. Choosing who you want to care for them
You can gift your pet in your Will to someone you love and trust in the same way in which you might gift valuable jewellery. It is important to make sure that the person is aware of your potential gift and happy to care for your pets otherwise you run the risk that the person will decline to accept the pet from the Executor of your Will after you pass.
2. Make provision for their care
There is also the option of leaving a quantity of money in your Will to the person who is to care for your pet. This amount can be used to cover reasonable costs based on your experience of what care they might need. You can express your wishes as to how you would like them to be cared for and what should happen in the instance the person nominated is unwilling or unable to care for your pet.
You are also able to set up a trust for the purpose of the care and maintenance of any pets you have. In this instance you have to appoint a trustee to run the trust. Under this kind of arrangement, the trustee holds the money for the benefit of the named animal. Once the pet passes away, the trust is wound up and you are able to direct how any remaining funds should be dealt with.
3. Pet rescue
A final option where there is no-one for you to leave your pet to or no one you feel comfortable with. In this instance, you are able to gift your pet to a particular animal rescue organisation to be re-homed. There are also some options where an organisation will rehome them, in return for a gift under the Will.
What if no arrangements have been made?
As discussed above pets are property and will be treated as such if there is no specifications in your Will. This means that unless a specific gift or bequest of the pet is made, they form part of the residue (or remainder) of your estate. This means that whoever inherits the residue of your estate will then be entitled to take your pet. Without a Will, this is governed by the rules of intestacy.
Pets and wills are a very important part of many people’s lives. As such, they are one of the many considerations when estate planning.
A solicitor for wills can help you ensure that your furry friends are properly cared for after you pass away.
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