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Providing for Pets in your Will

View profile for Claire Holland
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With over 52% of UK adults owning a pet, according to the PDSA, we are a nation of animal lovers. So when it comes to making a Will, you might be wondering how to make the right provision for your beloved companion.

Although pets are usually much-loved members of the family, they are actually considered by law to be ‘personal chattels’ and so can be gifted by your Will.

If you have a pet at the time you make your Will (or you think you are likely to have one at some point in the future) you should think about providing for its care after you have died. You can do this by making a gift of your pet to a chosen beneficiary.

You should think carefully about whether you would like this gift to apply only to the pet you currently own, or to any pet you might have at the time of your death.  If you leave a gift of ‘Rover’ but by the time of your death Rover has been replaced by ‘Bullseye’, the gift will fail.

Next, you should carefully consider who would be the right person to gift your pet to, and it is best to talk to your chosen beneficiary first.  Whilst they may be happy to walk your dog once in a while, they might not be quite so willing to look after it for the rest of their life.  Consider the age, condition and life expectancy of the animal – it is unlikely to be in your pet’s best interest if they outlive successive owners.  It might be a good idea to have a substitute beneficiary in case the person you have in mind to look after your pet declines the gift or dies before you.

Once you have established who should look after your pet, think about the costs of maintenance. As you will know, keeping a pet is expensive. You can provide financial provision to the beneficiary to assist with these costs. It is possible to include a clause to increase the value of any cash given by reference to the Retail Price Index, so that the gift maintains its value. It is very important to make sure that you make adequate financial provision, as this may have a bearing on whether your chosen beneficiary accepts the gift and will ensure that your pet is looked after as you would wish. 

You can add a letter of wishes to the beneficiary setting out how you would like your pet to be taken care of. They would not be bound by your wishes, but it might be helpful to them.

If you prefer, you could leave your pet to a charity and ask them to look after your pet or to re-home them if possible.  

Finally, a cash gift direct to an animal will always fail. Despite popular myths about testators leaving their estate to their pet cat, this is not possible. Animals have no legal personality and so they cannot inherit.

You can see that there is a lot to consider, and any clause will have to be carefully worded to ensure that it achieves your wishes and does not fail.  Our experienced team can discuss your options with you and advise on the best provision for your situation.

If you would like to discuss provision for your pets, or any aspect of your Will, please contact the Private Client Team by calling 01242 574 244.  

The information contained on this page has been prepared for the purpose of this blog/article only. The content should not be regarded at any time as a substitute for taking legal advice.