Who would look after your pets if you were to suddenly pass away?

We are a nation who love our pets, and worrying about what would happen to them if we were to die is a common concern, and rightly so.

U.K law regards a deceased person’s pets, for instance dogs and cats, as ‘personal chattels’, which under the Administration of Estates Act 1925 means that they can be provided for in a will.

I frequently deal with clients who want to provide for cats and dogs in their will, as they like the peace of mind knowing that their much loved animals would be properly looked after if the worst should happen to them. In 2015 a case hit the news involving a 60 year old accountant from America, who bequeathed £1 million to her dog Bella in her will, so for some clients, this is their wish. As will writers we have to respect that, and are there to ensure our client’s wishes are met.

However, I would always recommend that if you want to leave a certain amount of money for your pet’s care and maintenance, you don’t leave it to the pet themselves as they cannot legally receive the inheritance as they can’t sign for the money nor can they open a bank account! This is where a nominated beneficiary or trustee would be chosen to take over the care of your beloved companion.

If you haven’t already made a will then think carefully about how you would like your pets to be looked after, if you suddenly were no longer here. A clause can be added to any will in order to care for pets, or, to simply give instructions as to what should happen to your animals if you as the owner/s pass away.

How could I provide for my Pet? What could I state in the will?

I advise clients that if they have a family member or friend in mind who they would like to look after their pet when they pass away, then maybe they include a clause within the will to this effect, possibly as discussed earlier on, adding a cash amount available to them for the remainder of the animals’ lifetime.  This can act as incentive for the family member or friend to take care of the pet as per your wishes.

If you can’t think of anyone who would be willing to look after your pet then you can request in your will that he or she is looked after by a specific animal charity instead. There are many charities out there who will accept pets that have been left homeless as a result of their owner’s death, such as the RSPCA and The Cinnamon Trust.

If you have any questions relating to pets and your will, or any queries in relation to other legacy matters then please contact our legal adviser, Sophie Vines on 01472 694569.