There are an estimated 51 million pets in the UK, but only a small proportion of them are mentioned in their owner’s Will.
In England and Wales, pets are considered to be the property of their owners and, as such, can be left to someone in a Will. This article looks at the question: “Leaving Money To Pets In A Will – How To Do It”.
The RSPCA estimates that there are 12 million pet-owning households in the UK. The PDSA say that 26% of us own a dog, while 24% own a cat.
What will happen to your pet when you die?
If you do not specifically mention your pet in your Will, then he or she will pass to the person who is entitled to inherit your personal possessions. This might mean that your pet ends up with someone who does not really want them or who is unable to care for them.
Planning for your pet after your death
You can use your Will to leave your pet to your choice of beneficiary. You should talk to them about your pet before you make your Will to make sure they are happy to take them on. Then you should make sure that your Will specifies that they are to receive your pet.
How to look after your pet in your Will
If you are able, you can also leave a sum of money to the person who will be taking on your pet, which they can use to care for your pet and pay for veterinary and other expenses. This can be either a cash gift, payable if they take on your pet, or left in trust for your pet with their carer as trustee. By leaving the money in trust, there is no risk that the person who takes on your pet will lose any state benefits that they may be receiving and which could stop if they were to receive a lump sum of money.
You can also name a second choice or back-up beneficiary, in case your chosen beneficiary dies before you.
You cannot leave money directly to your pet in your Will as legally they are not able to own assets. If you decide to set up a trust however, the money will be set aside to be used for their care.
As well as leaving your pet to someone in your Will, you can also leave that person a ‘Letter of Wishes’. Although this is not a legally binding document, it will give your pet’s new carer guidance as to what your wishes are.
How animal charities can help
If you do not have anyone who is willing and able to take on your pet, you can consider a charity. The RSPCA and the Cinnamon Trust take on animals whose owners have passed away. As well as leaving your pet in their care, you can also leave them a gift of money.
Reviewing your Will
If you take on more pets in the future, you should review your Will and add the new pets. Before doing this, you should speak to the person who will be caring for them to ensure that they are still happy to take on the extra pets.
While no-one wants to think about leaving their pets, by making a valid Will you will have the peace of mind of knowing that, should something happen, they will be looked after by your choice of carer and beneficiary.