For many pet owners, their pets are regarded as their closest companion. In many polls, the British population has defined their pets as part of their family. It has been shown in recent studies that pets can reduce anxiety, stress and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and happiness.
If you are a pet owner, you may well worry about who would look after your pets if you were to pass whilst they are still alive. It may be your intention to make provisions for them to ensure they do not miss out after your death. This provision would be contained within your last Will and Testament.
Caution should be exercised when it comes to the wording of general gifts for pets in wills. This is because an incorrectly written clause in your will may fail. For example, a monetary gift (e.g. £5,000) to your dog will fail, as animals cannot give legal receipt to the executors or hold assets. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that you encompass any future pets you may have in your will.
It is possible to make gifts of family pets in your will as animals are defined as personal chattels. Therefore, if you consider that there is someone who would look after your pet after your death, a legacy should be inserted into your will. It is prudent to discuss the matter with the person you have elected to look after your pet and confirm they are happy to take on the duties associated with taking care of said animal.
Providing for pets
The English Courts have decided that a gift providing for a pet’s maintenance to a specified individual is a valid and legitimate legacy in a will. The gift can be conditional upon the beneficiary taking on the responsibility of looking after the pet. This avoids a situation of your chosen person not being able to take on the responsibility simply due to lack of funds. There is no guarantee, however, that the said person will take on the responsibility of looking after your beloved animal (e.g. the beneficiary may have predeceased you or may no longer be in a position to do so).
It is therefore a good idea to have an alternative plan in place, for example, by including a substitute beneficiary who can look after your pet should the first beneficiary be unable to.
If you are struggling to consider suitable candidates to take care of your pet after your death, you can of course think about a charitable organisation such as the RSPCA, and many charities are able to offer advice about what they are able to offer.
Speak to Kew Law
Please contact Kew Law if you are in any doubt about how to make provision for your pets in your will, or you have any other queries regarding you pets and the general law associated with this.
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