As a nation of animal lovers, most pet owners understand that when you take on responsibility for another creature’s life that responsibility continues until their life ends.
But what happens when you are no longer able to take care of your beloved pets, either because you are mentally or physically incapacitated or you die before your pet?
Fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld ensured his beloved cat Choupette continued to live the pampered lifestyle she had grown accustomed to under his care. Choupette, a Burmese cat, inherited a chunk of the designer’s estimated $300 million net worth, after he wrote her into his will in 2015. “Don’t worry, there is enough for everyone,” he said. Among Choupette’s most admired traits? “She doesn’t talk.”
In the UK, it is not possible to leave assets directly to an animal as they are considered a chattel. You can however make provision for them in your will to ensure they are cared for, for the rest of their life.
You will need to consider the type, age and temperament of your pet. Some animals require more expert care than others – for example, tropical fish would need require more expertise than a cat. Think too about who would be willing to take on the responsibility for your pet and whether they agree to this. It’s also important to weigh up that person’s home, life style and their age. There is no point leaving a large dog to a person who lives in a bedsit and goes to work all day. Or a dog that requires walking twice a day to someone who is not physically fit enough to do this. Ideally, whoever you choose will be more than likely to outlive the animal.
Animals cost money in food and vet bills, and more so the older they get. It’s therefore sensible to include a cash gift of a sum that would cover the likely costs for the rest of the animal’s life. This can either be directly to the person taking responsibility or in a trust managed by your executors. The gift of cash can be conditional on their taking the animal on, and that animal still living with them after a period of time. A gift to your executors to manage would be a surer way of ensuring the money is used for the animal’s benefit.
You could also consider writing a letter explaining the animal’s likes and dislikes, any health issues and what they like to eat, as well as details of the vet they are registered with, any chip number, insurance company details, and so on.
Not only do you need to make provision for your pet in your will, you also need to consider what is to happen if you become unable to look after them during your lifetime. When putting in place a lasting power of attorney for property and financial affairs you may want to include power for the attorney to continue payment of the ongoing costs associated with your pet.
Lastly, you will need to think about alternatives if you are unable to find someone you know who is willing to take on your pet. Is there a particular animal charity you would be happy to rehome your pet or would you rather leave this decision to the executors to arrange rehoming?
Animals deserve to be happy and if you have a pet it is important that their ongoing welfare and happiness is catered for.
To discuss options or to find out further information, please get in touch with Wills & Probate Solicitor Sarah Woodward, on telephone 01275 850470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.