But Who Gets the Pet?

October 31, 2016

When making a will, many people only consider the bigger assets in their lives, their house, their cash in the bank or even some family jewellery. Frequently people merely want to ensure that their possessions pass to their nearest and dearest in the correct proportions.  What can easily be overlooked is what happens to their pets in the event of their death.

Many stories abound of the super rich leaving millions of pounds to their dog or cat in order to ensure that they are well cared for. While it may not frequently happen on that scale, the principle is still something that everyone with a pet should consider when making their wills.

Looking after a pet can be a burden both physically and financially and clear instructions should be included in the will so that the executors fully understand who should be responsible for their pet.

Some clients have included instructions for their elderly pet to be put down in the event of their death, which is quite an extreme example, as one would assume this would only be appropriate if the animal was particularly elderly. Clients often find it easier to merely leave a legacy to a friend or family member who will be taking over responsibility for the pet.  These legacies should be proportionate to the size of the estate, but clients should consider how much the cost of caring for the pet might be for the rest of their pet’s lives.

Another option is to make a donation to an animal charity either in the hope that they will do their upmost to find the pet a new home, or will care for the pet in their own facility. This can have an added inheritance tax benefit as if the legacy is to a registered charity then the legacy will be free of inheritance tax.

Sometimes it can be the physical care of the pet that can be difficult for the person who is charged with looking after the pet. If the legatee knows that they will not be able to look after the pets, say for instance that the pets are large dogs that require a lot of exercise; they could enter into a Deed of Variation to pass the legacy to a local animal charity who will look after the animals properly.

When making a will clients should consider all of the practical aspects of their estate, including their pets, as including clear instructions about the care of their pets in their will should help the executors in the administration of the estate.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.