Who will look after my pet if I am unwell or I die?
When making a Will, you may have many questions including who will look after my pet if I died. Increasingly people want to make provision for their pets in their Wills, which solicitors can assist with in order to ensure that your pets are looked after if you are unwell or if you died.
One of the most important reasons behind having a Will is to protect your family, especially those financially dependent on you. According to studies 45% of UK households have a pet, many of which are considered to be part of the family.
Following the death of Karl Lagerfeld there has been some interest in the fact that his cat, Choupette, may be inheriting millions. Karl had German citizenship and under German Law it is potentially possible for a cat to inherit your estate.
In England and Wales, your estate must be left to a human beneficiary or beneficiaries who can then use your assets for the benefit of your animals. You could leave a modest sum to cover the costs of looking after your animals, including vets bills. It seems that Choupette is used to a particularly lavish lifestyle of silver food dishes, private jets and her own team of maids, and therefore might have different financial requirements.
It is also important to consider making provisions for your pets whilst you are alive in the event that you are unable to look after them.
If there was something wrong with your pet, your instinct would be to take it to the vet for a check-up. However, what if something was wrong your pet, but you no longer had capacity to deal with your financial affairs, how would you pay for the vet bill? For this reason, it is important to consider a Lasting Power of Attorney ('LPA') for Property and Financial Affairs. By having a Lasting Power of Attorney, you can appoint someone, or a few people, that you trust to have authority to deal with your affairs in the event that you no longer have the capacity to do so. Anyone that you appoint as an attorney under this application will have the authority to pay your bills on your behalf and can take care of your pets as you would if you did have sufficient capacity.
It may also be beneficial to consider obtaining a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. Similarly, this application will allow your attorneys to make decisions on your behalf and in your best interest. Ultimately, your attorneys would be able to make decisions as far as possible to ensure that you could remain living with your pets or have them be able to visit you if you were to go into sheltered housing or a care home.
Despite many stories of people leaving everything to their pets, this is not legally possible in England and Wales; to be able to receive a gift from a Will, you must be able to provide a legal receipt of the gift. However, under the Administration of Estates Act 1925, pets are considered to be 'personal chattels' and therefore you can make provision for their future care and wellbeing. An example of this would be to leave your pet to someone that you trust, who understands your pet's specific needs. It would be advisable to discuss this with the person you have in mind before you making any provision in your Will. This way, your wishes will not come as a surprise and you can be satisfied that the person you have chosen can offer the care and support that you wish for your pet to receive.
When drafting your Will, there is always the option to give provision of a 'maintenance' amount to the person you have nominated to look after your pet. This can either be by way of a cash gift to help towards vets, grooming, insurance and feeding needs. Alternatively, you could set up a trust where trustees would manage a trust fund for the financial aspect of caring for your pet once you have passed.
A further consideration is whether your animal has any special needs, which you should record to assist anyone caring for them when you are unable to.
You should consider who will look after your pet, and what would happen if they were unable to act. Usually a friend or relative would be the first option. Sometimes there may not be anyone who would want to look after your pet or is able to, for instance dog lovers often have a dog of their own and your dogs may not be compatible.
If there is no one personally known to you that is able or willing to look after your pets, then an alternative option is to nominate an animal charity to do so instead. You may wish to leave a legacy to the relevant charity as a "thank you". Charities such as Dogs Trust, RSPCA, Blue Cross, and The Cinnamon Trust all operate schemes where your pets will either have a home for life with the charity or be found a suitable loving home as part of a re-homing initiative. Some charitable organisations that offer care schemes do limit the number of pets that they can accept per household so if you have a pair of cats or dogs who have spent all their lives together, it would be advisable to discuss if they can be kept together, again giving you peace of mind that your wishes regarding your pets' future will be fulfilled.
PCB Solicitors LLP has created a card for you to carry, so that in the event of you being incapacitated, someone would know who to contact to ensure that your pets were looked after. If there are any special requirements of your pet, i.e. if it is a dangerous species under The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, then this will also need to be considered.
If you want to get in touch to make a Will or Lasting Power of Attorney then contact us on 01743 248148 or you can email us.
PCB Solicitors LLP is a modern partnership, with offices in Shrewsbury, Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Knighton, Ludlow, Telford, and Clun (by appointment only).