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.
The RSPCA estimate that there are 12 million pet-owning households in the UK, with 26 percent of us owning a dog and 18 percent a cat.
What happens to your pet when you die
If you haven’t made specific mention of your pet in your Will, then he or she will pass to the person receiving your personal possessions. This could mean that your pet ends up with someone who doesn’t want them or who is unable to care for them.
Planning for your pet after your death
Ideally you should think about who you want to care for your pet at the same time that you make your Will.
Talk to the person you have chosen and make sure that they are completely happy to take on the animal, bird or reptile. Then make sure that your wishes are clearly communicated in your Will and also to your friends and family.
How to look after your pet in your Will
If you’ve found someone to take care of your pet, name them in your Will and specify which pet they are to receive or, if they are agreeable, you can include any future pet.
You can also leave them money to cover vets bills and other expenses. This can be by way of a cash gift, contingent upon them accepting the pet, or by way of a trust. Leaving the money to them in trust, with them as trustee, means they can avoid losing any state benefits they may be receiving, which might be in jeopardy if they were to receive a lump sum of cash. You can specify what is to happen to the remainder of any trust money once your pet dies.
Consider leaving a ‘letter of wishes’ alongside your Will, setting out how you would like your pet to be cared for. While this will not be legally binding, it will help the person taking on the pet to know what your wishes are.
How animal charities can help
Some charities offer a pre-need registration service. You can contact them to discuss how you would like them to help your pet after your death.
The RSPCA, Blue Cross and Cats Protection are charities which take in pets without owners. If you do make arrangements with a charity, make sure this is specified in your Will so that your executor knows exactly what your wishes are.