There can be no denying the important role that pets play in the average household in the United Kingdom – indeed since the start of the pandemic, the percentage of pet owners in the UK increased from 45% to 59%. Whether they are regarded as simple animals, beloved companions, or even a fully fledged member of the family, our pets are a vital presence in the lives of countless people across the world.
In that context, it’s hardly surprising that so many people are curious about providing for their pets in their Will. While a human lives much longer than a cat or dog, it’s possible for an owner to pass on while they still have animals in their homes, and wanting to make sure those animals are taken care of after the owner’s passing is only natural. In this article we’ll discuss all the relevant facts of how to provide for your pet’s well being in your will.
Can You Name a Pet as a Beneficiary?
The short answer to this question is “no”. In the eyes of the law, a pet is not a legal entity. Instead, pets are considered assets, just like money, land, or vehicles – a form of property whose ownership can be legally passed from one person to another. Therefore, if you try to include a pet as a beneficiary in your Will, the gift will be invalid.
There is a silver lining to this fact however – while you can’t actually give money to your pets, you can leave detailed instructions and conditions for their care.
Even if you can’t leave money directly with your pet, it’s important to arrange some kind of plan or leave instructions for the animal’s care. If you don’t, a beloved pet can easily bounce between new owners within your family, or be given directly to a local shelter.
What Options Exist?
There are a few options available when it comes to creating arrangements that will ensure that your pet is happy and taken care of after your passing. The first option is the simplest and most direct – simply bequeath the pet as a gift, just as you would any other asset. If you have a trustworthy and willing candidate, simply giving them ownership of the pet is the easiest choice to ensure the animal’s well being.
Choosing a Guardian
There are many important considerations to keep in mind when choosing who will take care of your pet: it must be someone that you trust, who will love and take good care of your furry companion, and who is willing to take on the responsibility of a new animal. There are a few vital considerations to keep in mind when arranging for a pet in your will.
Firstly, it’s necessary to have a conversation with the person you’d like to inherit your pet to make sure that they are indeed willing and able to do so. Even a close friend with a deep love for animals may refuse to accept the care of your pet if they lack the time, money, or space to do so.
Secondly, it’s always a smart idea to name a secondary person just in case the first one is not able to look after your pet.
Lastly, it’s possible to leave your pet’s fate in the hands of a charity rather than an individual person. Some charities are highly focused, specialising in particular dog or cat breeds, while many others offer broad services aimed at caring for and rehoming pets in general.
Establishing Financial Care
The final step to consider when arranging for your pet in your Will is providing resources to care for the animal. Owning a pet can be expensive, so gifting it to a friend with no financial support is not advisable.
The easiest option is to leave money with the person inheriting the pet. However, this doesn’t prevent them from spending the money on things other than your pet’s care, so the safest choice is to establish a trust. This allows funds to be specifically set aside which can only be used for the purpose named in the trust (in this case, the care of your pet), ensuring that the person caring for your animal will have funds to do so, but can’t spend the money on an exotic holiday.
Get Legal Advice
While it’s certainly possible to write a Will on your own without the help of a solicitor, doing so leaves room for mistakes or errors that can prevent your final wishes from being carried out the way you asked. That’s why, when it comes to ensuring that your pets and loved ones are taken care of after your passing, there’s no one more trusted and proven than Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors.
We specialise in Wills, Probate and Equity Release.