What Happens to Your Pets when You Die?

07 March 2019

In England and Wales, pets are legally considered to be the property of the owner, in the same way as other possessions. When you make a Will this can set out what should happen to all of your worldly possessions when you die, including your beloved pets.

As a nation of animal lovers, our pets truly become part of the family. If you share your home with a furry, feathered or scaled companion, have you ever considered what will happen to them in the event of your death? It's not something that most of us want to think about, but it is an important point to consider.

Making Provisions for Pets in Wills

It's estimated that around 51 million pets are owned in the UK across 12 million households. With rescue centres already bursting at the seams, it's not surprising that many pet owners want to ensure that their pet would be taken in and cared for by someone they trust.

Co-op Legal Services previously carried out a poll which revealed that almost half of pet owners would appoint a guardian for their pet in the event of their death. What's more is that almost a third of people in the UK actually have made provisions for a pet in their Will.

In England and Wales, pets are deemed to be 'personal chattels' (possessions) which means that they can be gifted in a Will in the same way as any other personal chattel. When you make a Will, you can state that you would like your pet to pass to a specific person.

Considerations when Including a Pet in Your Will

When making a provision for your pet in your Will, your primary concern should be choosing the right Beneficiary to take on the responsibility of your pet. You will need to think carefully about which of your friends or family members has sufficient time and space, and is willing to take on the responsibility of your pet.

Of course, you should sit down and have a conversation with the person that you want to gift your pet to before you make your Will, so that they are aware of the situation and have an opportunity to say if they do not want to take on this responsibility.

It's also possible to name a substitute Beneficiary in your Will if the first is unable or unwilling to take on your pet in the event of your death. This could be the case if they have fallen ill or their circumstances have changed since you made your Will. By naming a substitute Beneficiary your pet can still be cared for by someone you know and trust, even if the first Beneficiary is not able to step in.

It's also important to bear in mind that pet ownership can place a significant financial burden on people, with the cost of food and vets bills quickly mounting up. If money is a potential concern, it's possible to also include a cash gift to be paid to the Beneficiary of your pet, to cover these costs.

Correctly Drafting Your Will

If you do decide to leave a cash gift to the Beneficiary then your Will needs to be worded in such a way that the cash gift would only apply if the Beneficiary agrees to take in the pet. Our Will Writers would be able to provide you with advice and guidance on this to ensure that the correct wording is used, with no ambiguity.

Another risk that you face if your Will is not properly drafted is that it may only refer to pets owned at the time of making your Will. The pets that you own on the date of your death could be entirely different, so you'll need your Will to accommodate any pets that you acquire in the future. A professional Will writer, such as Co-op Legal Services, can ensure that the correct wording is used to cover this.

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