Providing for your pets

We often get asked what will happen to a much loved pet (or pets) in the event the owner dies. If you have ever wondered about this – read on.

If your spouse or partner survives you, the obvious choice would be for them to continue to care for the pet(s), but if this is not the case, or it is impractical for them to do so, then there are several options available, many of which can be provided for in your Will.

A friend or relative – this is often the first choice, but you must take into consideration whether that person has the time to take care of the pet. If the friend or relative in question works either full or part time or spends a lot of time away from home, it is no good asking them to look after a dog or other animal that might need company most of the time. The same applies if the pet needs regular exercise and the friend or relative does not have the ability or the time to provide this. In such cases it would be unfair to both the person and the animal to put them together. A suitable home could be an issue – if the friend or relative lives in a flat or rented accommodation, the landlord may not be willing to give permission for them to keep the pet at the property.

As with humans, as pets grow older, their needs have to be met and vets bills and other expenses can mount up. If the pet is quite young, the costs of looking after the animal could be extensive and this does need to be taken into account especially if you are considering asking a friend or relative to look after your pet(s) so that they do not find themselves taking on an expensive obligation they can ill afford.

Such expenses can be dealt with either by giving the friend or relative a lump sum to assist with this. Alternatively you could ask your executors to hold back a sum of money to be used to cover anything from vets bills, through to food and grooming expenses, which the carer of your pet can ask for as and when required – if you would prefer funds to be held, rather than giving a lump sum, you should also include a provision in your Will for distribution of any remaining funds when the pet finally dies – you may wish to leave it to the person who looked after the pet, give it to charity or someone else.

It has been known for a pet owner to ask whether money or property can be left to the pet itself to cover the costs of its future care however this is known as a “trust of imperfect obligation” and is unenforceable, so we would always advise one of the previous options.

Charity – there are a number of charities who will take in your pet and care for it, although their ultimate aim would be to re-home it. Some charities even offer a service, whereby should anything happen to you, they will arrange for the pet to be collected and cared for, pending re-homing, thus taking away the worry of what will happen to them in the event of your death. Dogs Trust, for example offer a “Canine Care Card” which is a free service whereby you register your wish for Dogs Trust to collect and take care of your dog should you die. They will ask you to complete a registration form and then issue you with a card that you can carry with you in your purse or wallet, rather like a donor card. You can also include a provision in your will asking for a specific animal charity to take care of your pet, but please do bear in mind that your Will is often not read until some days after your death, or sometimes longer.

A charity will always appreciate a cash gift, however small, whether or not they are entrusted with the care of your beloved pet. This can be a gift of a fixed sum of money, or a share your estate and there are many wonderful animal charities to choose from.

The final option, if you cannot bear the idea of having anyone else look after your pet should you die, is to ask for the pet to be put down – however this is at the absolute discretion of your executors and it would be sad to advocate the death of an animal that could bring joy and company to someone else.

If you would like any further guidance on this matter, we would be pleased to assist.