Pets and your Will - 'Prepare for their care'
We are a nation of pet lovers, in fact over 45 percent of us own a pet [i]. However what many do not consider is what will happen to their pet after they die. There are a number of options.
Family or Friends
If asked, most of us would be able to identify a family member or friend who they know would volunteer and take our pets in at the outset, if we were to go into hospital or pass away, but this solution may not work in the long-term, with Brits spending an average of £1,150 a year on their pets. This is undoubtedly a huge responsibility for the 'volunteer' and a solution that should not be relied on without discussing it with your preferred person. In addition, your executors may not be aware of the arrangement (nor might the volunteer!) which could mean that your pet is sent to a shelter you would not have selected or worse.
There are a number of charities who will pledge to take care of your pets if you are taken ill, have to go into care or pass away. It is important to register your pet with the charity before you find yourself in this situation. Charities such as those below provide that in the event of your death, the registered pet would be taken into care until they could be found a new home:
- The RSPCA's home for life scheme;
- The Blue Cross Pets into Care Scheme;
- The Dogs Trust Canine Care Card;
- The Cat's Protection Cat Guardians;
- The Cinnamon Trust.
All of the above charities will of course take care of and re-home your pet free of charge, but it is worth remembering that even if you don't have much money to pass on, the only reason the charities can exist to offer these emergency measures is through charitable donations. Speak to your legal adviser about ways to make sure that the charity or charities of your choice are remembered in your Will, should you require their help to take care of your pets.
You can gift a pet in your Will, and the beneficiary can choose whether to accept or not. This allows for you to discuss the proposal with them, and if at the time of your death they are not prepared to receive your pet, then 'plan B' or even plan 'C' can come into effect. Options include:
- Leaving your pet and a cash sum to your executors with a request that they deal with both in accordance with a non-binding letter of wishes. The letter of wishes can set out who you would like to look after your pet and what should happen if they are not willing to accept it. The letter of wishes can also give you the chance to explain how you would like them to care for your pet, its eating habits, local vet and insurance information etc. The letter of wishes can be changed over time without having to change your Will. The cash can be used by your executors to care for your pet until a home is found and can act as an incentive for the person to take your pet.
- If you are concerned about leaving the legatee a cash sum (particularly for a horse or other animal requiring expensive long term care) then you might want to place more of a moral responsibility on the legatee. You could require an undertaking to be given by the legatee to your executors that they will apply the legacy for the upkeep and maintenance of your pet until its death. If the legatee is unwilling to give that undertaking then a provision could be made for a substitute legatee to take if s/he agrees to the undertaking. In order to make the bequest particularly 'future proof' you can even index-link the amount to address inflation, or if you are worried about additional care, make sure that you have a reputable insurance policy in place which will automatically renew, to ensure that it stays in place immediately after your death. Ensure that you include a provision for 'any future pets' so that none are left out if the pets change between the signing of the Will and your passing.
- If you have no one you feel you are able to ask to look after your pet then another option would be to leave your pet and a cash sum to an animal charity, for example, the RSPCA with a direction that they find a suitable home for your pet. The RSPCA could use the funds to care for your pet. As the RSPCA is a nationwide charity they would be able to act quickly to take in your pet and being a charity the legacy would be exempt from inheritance tax.
You should also consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney so that your pet can be looked after should you become ill or need to go into care.
It is important that everyone makes a Will and Power of Attorney to ensure that they take care of the loved ones in their life, including the four legged ones. For further information please contact Alison Craggs or Emily Dyas in the Succession & Tax team.
Emily Dyas, Trainee Solicitor, was also a contributing author to this blog.
[i] Source - Statista 2017/18