The whole idea of getting up at 6am on a dark winter’s morning to ride out in the pouring rain can seem quite baffling to non-horsey people but this is a normal way of life for many. Your horse is a much beloved member of the family, perhaps more loved then some relatives, and whilst it affords a great opportunity (when it is not raining) to get a fantastic tan on your arms and face it can also be a dangerous hobby. Each year there are riding fatalities but how many of those riders made provisions for the care of their horses after their deaths?
One obvious way to ensure your horse’s future is to make a Will. However, unless you want your horse to pass in accordance with the residue of your estate, it is advisable to have a specific gift in your Will. Until 2014, a horse along with carriages and stable furniture were classed as chattels (personal belongings) and it was common to leave your chattels to your executors to distribute with regard to a letter of wishes. The definition of chattels was updated in 2014 so that horses are no longer part of the definition and therefore will no longer pass under the provisions of that clause, so if your Will is older than 2014 it may need updating.
Who is going to pay for feed, vets’ bills and for transporting the animal to its new home?
The choice of executors is important as they will be immediately responsible. Are they prepared to make provision for your horse whilst the probate is being administered? Who is going to pay for feed, vets’ bills and for transporting the animal to its new home? Do the provisions in your Will relate to a specific horse or to all your horses at the date of your death? It is also a good idea to think about the paraphernalia around keeping a horse such as the tack, your riding gear and even the horse box. Are they to be left to the person taking on the horse or are they to be sold?
A horse is an asset but it can also be a financial drain on resources. They are not cheap animals to keep and so before you potentially burden your beloved horse with a kindly person, it is important to ask them whether they would be happy to take the animal or animals on. There is nothing worse then an animal being bequeathed to a specific person only to find that the person doesn’t want it. Unless the executors can find an alternative the only option left is for the horse to be destroyed.
As horses can be expensive to keep you might want to consider leaving a cash legacy to a person on the basis that they take the animal on. The courts have held that a testamentary gift to someone providing for maintenance for an animal is a valid gift. There is still no guarantee that the person will accept the horse but it may help ease the financial burden of so doing.
Finally have a plan B. If your first choice is unable to take the horse on, is there a substitute? What about an animal welfare charity who would be willing to rehome the animals? If you do this then it is also advisable to leave the charity a cash sum to help defray the costs whilst a new home is found.
Considering the various options and drafting an appropriate Will with the right provisions will give the peace of mind that your beloved horse will have the protection and love it deserves if something were to happen to you.