Fur babies – what you need to know about pets and wills

Pets have become an integral part of our lives with many more families becoming pet-owners during COVID lockdowns. And in my experience as an estate planning lawyer, clients have even confided that they sometimes like their pets more than their children.

You only need to look at the money spent on pets, and the seemingly endless variety of items available to purchase, to know they are adored family members.

So, like other family members, it’s important to ensure you make provision for them in your will. Let’s take a look at some of the things you should consider.

Who will care for your pet?
Commonly, if a spouse passes away, the other spouse or children will care for the animals left behind. But what happens if there is no spouse and if other family and friends really didn’t like your pet? For this reason alone, it is a good idea to make provision in your will for a carer for your pet.

Read: Pets and Australians – who owns what

When considering who is the best person, think of your pet’s personality and needs. If your pet likes spending time alone, placing them in a family with young children may not suit their personality and may actually be detrimental to them.

Likewise, if you have a large dog and live on a rural property where they’ve had the luxury of spending their days roaming freely, leaving them in the care of a family member who lives in the inner city with a tiny backyard and limited time to exercise your dog will not be an ideal choice.

Once you have someone in mind, ask them if they would be agreeable to care for your pet if something happened to you. You may be surprised. That animal-loving friend who allows your pooch to sit on their lap every time they visit may actually not want the responsibility of caring for a pet on a full-time basis. It’s always best to ask and get that tick of approval so there are no surprises when the time comes.

Providing for future care
Clients often leave a bequeath in their will to the person entrusted with a pet’s care. This provision is made along the lines that the bequeath is provided for the intended care and welfare of the pet and for future vet and grooming costs.

Read: Pets, touch and COVID

In determining the figure, you may wish to give consideration to the age of the pet and its expected life expectancy, and whether your pet has any dietary special requirements and medical needs. Those considerations are a starting point as to how much you wish to bequeath.

There is no right or wrong amount to leave for their care, its essentially an amount that you feel comfortable with.

Rehoming your pet
There is also the prospect that you don’t have anyone you could entrust with the care of your pet. This is more common that people would think. In these circumstances, you may consider stipulating a person or organisation who you’d like your executor to engage with to find a new home for your pet.

Read: Adorable celebrity pets

In this case, it is a good idea to list such wishes in your will as they will provide definitive guidance to your executor.

Fur babies provide us with unconditional love while we’re alive, so it’s nice to return the favour by caring about what happens to them when you’re no longer here. Include them in your will, reward their loyalty and love and they’ll be very happy that you did – even if they can’t tell you.

Melisa Sloan, author of Legacy, is an estate planning lawyer. Find out more at www.madisonsloanlawyers.com.au.

Are you likely to leave a plan for a pet in a will? Or will you deliberately not get a new pet when you’re older? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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