How to Provide for Pets in Your Will

24 May 2017

By Head of Wills, Solicitor James Antoniou

When making a Will most people will automatically think about what they want to happen to their home, money and investments. But what about your pets? After all, they’re part of your family, and according to the law in England and Wales, pets are considered your personal possessions.

So what should you do to provide for your pets when making a Will?

First of all, you should establish whether anyone you know and trust would be willing to look after your pet when you pass away. If so, you can create a gift in your Will, leaving your pet to that particular person. This is possible because in England and Wales, pets are defined as ‘personal chattels’, meaning you can gift them to someone else.

If you like, you can choose a substitute beneficiary, just in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act when the time comes. For example, the person you chose to look after your pet may have already died, or may no longer be able to deal with the responsibility due to illness or a change in circumstances.

You can also leave your chosen beneficiary a cash gift to cover the cost of caring for your pet. This can be viewed as a sort of maintenance payment to cover costs such a vets bills and insurance. However, you need to be careful how you word this in your Will to ensure the beneficiary only receives the cash gift on the basis he/she agrees to look after your pet.

If you can’t find anyone who would be willing to welcome your pet into their home, you can request that your pet is looked after by an animal charity instead. Lots of charities accept pets that have been left homeless as a result of their owner’s death, such as the RSPCA and The Cinnamon Trust.

Other Important Information

There are a few other important things to know about when providing for pets in your Will.

The first is that before making your Will, you must speak to the person you want to look after your pet and get their consent. This will make sure it doesn’t come as a surprise, and makes it much more likely that the beneficiary will take on the care of your pet when you pass away.

Secondly, you mustn’t forget about future pets. You might think it’s difficult to make plans for future pets, seeing as you don’t have them yet. To get round this, you need to word your Will in a certain way so that the pets you own at the date of your death are provided for.

Thirdly, you mustn’t leave a cash gift directly to your pet. There are lots of stories about people leaving their entire fortune to their favourite pet moggy, but actually this isn’t true. Pets are unable to open bank accounts, so cannot legally receive an inheritance. But what you can do is leave your Estate to a certain beneficiary, and entrust them with the care of your beloved companion.

If you would like to make a Will that protects all of your loved ones, including your pets, our Will writers can help you.

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