There are several considerations to think about when preparing a Will, but pets can often be overlooked. As a Labrador and horse owner myself, I like to think I would consider them when preparing my own Will, but the reality is I just assume I will outlive them, or my family would take them on!
Whilst many pets are part of the family, in the eyes of the law they are considered personal chattels. This means you cannot leave money directly to them and they are dealt with in the same way as your car, furniture, artwork etc. With a carefully drafted Will, you can help ensure that your beloved pet is taken care of by leaving them to a chosen beneficiary.
Most people may choose to leave their “personal chattels” generally, but as we now know, this includes your pets. It is advisable to consider how the beneficiary is likely to react if you leave all of your personal chattels (including your pets) to them; whilst most people are happy to receive a car or jewellery, not everyone is filled with joy at having to welcome a slobbery dog into their home. A specific clause setting out who is to receive your pets should therefore be included and careful consideration needs to be given to who this will be. Speak to your friends and family to establish who would be best placed to look after your pet. Whilst your friend in central London might love the opportunity to have a horse, realistically where would they keep it? It is also recommended to have a backup plan just in case your chosen beneficiary decides when push comes to shove, they don’t want to or can’t accept the pet. After all, they do not have to accept the gift. If you are unable to find a friend or family member, then there are plenty of charities who offer a commitment to caring for pets even if they can’t be re-homed. The Cinnamon Trust is particularly well known for this.
Once you have decided who is best placed to look after your pet and you have a suitable backup, the next thing to consider is how will they afford to do so? Even without any surprise trips to the vets, the cost of owning a pet is probably a lot more than your beneficiary anticipates. As animals are not a legal person, money cannot be left to them directly (as smart as my Labrador is, I think even he would struggle to open a bank account in his name!) Any funds should therefore be left to the beneficiary with a wish that the money is used for the pet’s benefit. The gift should be worded carefully to ensure that the cash is only passed to the beneficiary if they accept the gift of your pet. A word of warning though – the money is a gift to the beneficiary and there is no legal obligation on them to use the funds on your pet.
Finally, don’t forget to include any future pets you may have at the time of death. A well drafted Will should last you for years and if you are anything like me, it is highly likely your pack of animals will have grown in that time!
If you would like to discuss making a will, contact our Will and Probate solicitors today.