How can a Will provide for an animal's care?

Sam Clarke of Hughes Paddison examines the ways in which you can provide for your pets in the event that you die before them. 

Elderly clients in particular are often concerned that their much loved pets can be properly cared for on their death.  Often there is not a family or friend who would be able to take care of the animal and we are sometimes asked about the best way to ensure the much loved pet can be cared for.

First of all you have to think about the practical issues: 

  • who is to look after your pet?
  • how much money is needed to look your pet’s care?
  • do you want the provision to be for a particular pet or any animal that you own at the date of your death?
  • what happens if, having made a gift in your Will, the animal is not alive when you die?

 Here are some possible solutions: 

1.       A Legacy to a named beneficiary

You can leave a legacy in your Will giving your pet and a cash sum to a named beneficiary.  You need to consider whether the payment of cash is to be conditional upon the beneficiary undertaking to look after your pet.  You could also provide a substitute beneficiary if the first named person either will not or cannot care for the animal or dies before you.  Bear in mind that this imposes further obligations on your Executors as they have a duty to ensure that your wishes are carried out and you may feel this is too much of a burden on people who are already offering their time to administer your Estate.

 2.       Legacy to Executors together with a Letter of Wishes

You could leave the animal and a cash sum to your Executors, together with a letter setting out how your Executors are to deal with both. You could name the person you would like to look after your pet and indicate what the Executors could do if nobody is prepared to accept the responsibility.  Again, this does put a further obligation on your Executors and a letter of wishes is a moral authority rather than legally binding.

 3.       Legacy to Animal Charity

You could leave a legacy to an animal welfare charity. This means giving your pet and a cash sum to your chosen animal welfare charity, together with a request the charity finds a suitable home for your pet.  This has two advantages: it avoids the problem of an ongoing duty on your Executors and the bequest is free of Inheritance Tax if the organisation is a qualifying UK charity.  The disadvantage is that this doesn’t impose any conditions that the charity has to satisfy, so there is no guarantee that the cash will be used specifically for your animal’s care or that the charity would not put down an animal that is frail or old. 

If you feel that a particular friend or family member is likely to accept the responsibility of caring for your pet then you could include a gift as in option 1 but a substitute provision involving a charity in case the person is unable to fulfil their obligations. 

You need to make it clear to your solicitor whether the legacy is for a current pet or any pet that is alive when you die and also, if a beneficiary is to receive a cash gift if the animal is not alive when you die. 

For animal lovers these are often It is important to consider this area.  We have experience of concerned Executors unsure what to do with the much loved pet of the deceased who would have been grateful for some guidance in the Will to ensure they carry out the deceased’s wishes. 

If you have any queries on this or any other matters relating to Wills please contact Sam Clarke on 01242 574244 or email