What happens to your pets on your death
The UK is famously a nation of dog lovers. If you were to head out to any of our parks, woodlands or beaches on a crisp autumn afternoon you would encounter more canine friends than you could shake a stick at (which they would love). With over 8.5 million (just over 24%) of households owning a veritable smorgasbord of breeds, our four-legged friends are as much a part of the family as our own flesh and blood.
But what happens to our furry babies when we die? Rather callously, the Administration of Estates Act 1925 defines domestic animals as ‘personal chattels’ and can be gifted in your Will in the same manner as a toaster, or the family grandfather clock. In the eyes of the law, your pet may be considered as tangible personal property but as a living, breathing and much-loved addition to your family it is important to give proper consideration when setting out what happens to them. So what should you consider?
Who gets Rex?
Whilst many family members would be happy to accommodate your pooch for a weekend, asking them to take full ownership may well be a different story. Ensure that you speak with potential friends or family members to be certain that they are happy with having your pet(s) on a permanent basis.
As with any gifts in Wills, it is always helpful to consider a plan B should you first choice no longer be in a position to take on the responsibility of your pet. A substitute beneficiary can be drafted to step in. Alternatively, charities such as the RSPCA’s Home for Life and The Cinnamon Trust run rehoming schemes and provide long term care for pets whose owners have died, if there are no other individuals who you are able to draft in.
What about costs of care?
Maintaining an animal can be an expensive business. Food, insurance and general health costs (flea/worming treatment/annual vaccinations) all add up. Leaving an additional cash legacy to the beneficiary tasked with taking on your pets in a great way of ensuring that your pet is looked after without any financial detriment to the beneficiary. In addition, it may be more of an incentive for the individual to agree to having your pet if they do not have any financial pressure to meet bills from their own pocket.
How to put this into practice
The correct wording of a legacy (whether canine or otherwise) is essential to ensure that a gift is properly dealt with. It is ALWAYS advisable to consult with a solicitor to ensure you wishes are adequately put in place. The proper, legal, drafting is necessary as any incorrect provision may fail. Your pet cannot individually receive a legacy (as they cannot provide a legal receipt) and as such any clause stating eg “£5,000 to Rover” just won’t work.
Legalmatters is always happy to discuss your needs for your dogs (or cats, or indeed any other animal) and help get the correct provisions in place. Whether your best friends are diamonds or dogs, we can help you with your arrangements by drafting the necessary claws (never one to pass up the op-paw-tunity for a pun).