Solicitor Stephanie Scullion, in our leading Probate, Tax & Trusts team, recommends that you formalise your wishes for pets in your will if they outlive you.
Thinking about your Will is an opportunity to consider what you wish to happen to your personal possessions, but if you own a pet, you need to also consider what should happen to your pet. As pets usually have shorter life expectancies, you may take account that you will outlive them, however as a responsible pet owner we would recommend that you consider your beloved pet to ensure that he or she continues to receive the care that it needs.
There are various options available and often people assume that family members will take on the responsibility for a pet. Sometimes, either the pet or the responsibility that it entails may be too much and so you may consider leaving a monetary legacy to the nominated family member or friend to assist for food, vet care and any other ancillary costs. We would suggest that you discuss this aspect of your Will with your nominated friend or family member now to prepare them, but also to plan for the future if they do not wish to take on this responsibility.
An alternative may be for an animal charity to care for your animal on your death. The Dogs Trust offers a free K9 Card Scheme that guarantees your dog will be rehomed with the Dogs Trust, if it is registered with them. The card acts in the similar way to an organ donor card and notifies people what should happen to your dog(s) if you were to pass away. If you definitely wish the charity to rehome your animal, it will also be wise to mention this in your Will, so that there is no misunderstanding.
The RSPCA also provides a free service called “home for life”. Where a pet has been signed off for the service, the RSPCA promises to find a suitable and loving new home as soon as they can in the event of a pet owner’s death. In the meantime, the pet will be cared for at an RSPCA Animal Centre. If the animal has not been signed up for a such scheme, it can prove difficult to find it a place as most animal charities are oversubscribed.
Cats Protection also offer a free “Guardian Service” for any cat owner at the date of your death and not just the cat you have registered under the Guardian Service. They also recommend that you include a clause in your Will that you wish for the Cats Protection to look after your cat. Once registered, you will receive a wallet card, a window sticker etc. to alert relatives that you have signed up for the Guardian Service.
Unfortunately, we see all too often that in times of a bereavement emotions are running high and sometimes arguments can ensue about the destination of animals or personal items of the deceased, if their wishes are not recorded. We would recommend that you formalise your wishes for pets to avoid any possible conflicts and to ensure that your animal has a suitable home when you are gone and continues to enjoy a safe and happy life.
For further information or legal advice, please contact email@example.com or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.