What happens to your pets when you die?

The Shaw & Bunner Legal team loves our pets – we collectively have 7 dogs (…and a handful of chooks). And we are not along – Australians have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world! But who will look after our beloved pets if we die? How can you make sure that your pet will be looked after?

If you have a Will and do not make provision for your pet, the residual beneficiary will inherit your pet. If you pass away without a valid Will, your pet will go to your next of kin.

Pets are considered property therefore you can stipulate what you would like happen to your pets in your Will.

We suggest you start the process of creating a pet care plan. Write a detailed list of everything required to care for your pet including dietary restrictions, usual activities, energy levels etc. This information will help you identify friends or family members who may be best suited for the task.

When it comes time to provide for your pet in your Will, there are some different ways you can do this:-

1. gift your pet to a family member, friend or to a charity.

The simplest way to provide for your pet under a Will is to gift the pet to a trusted family member or friend, or to a charity. You may consider combining the gift with a request that the person or charity either look after you pet in a particular way or make arrangements for your pet to be re-homed. Your request is not binding, it is     more like guidance.

2. gift your pet and a sum of money to a family member, friend or a charity.

If you gift your pet and money, you need to consider whether you give any direction about how the money is to be used. You may choose to give the money with a request that the money be used for the care of your pet or used to care for your pet in a particular way. In order to calculate a suitable gift of money for example, consider the breed, then estimate life expectancy times annual expenditure, and remember that older pets are more expensive. Keep in mind however that such a request is not binding – you are trusting that the person or charity will follow your request as guidance.

You may give the money on the condition that the person or charity first agrees to use the money in the way that you have directed. The Executor of your Will would then ensure that the beneficiary does agree to use the money in the required way but at a practical level there would be no continuing supervision ensuring that the agreement is adhered to.

The gift of money can be made through a legacy program with an animal charity. Under these programs a gift of money is made to the charity to either re-home your pet or to place them in a facility that these charities operate. For your peace of mind you may also wish to visit their facilities to ensure that your pet would be happy with the accommodation. We also suggest that you contact the charities to find out the requirements for you to take advantage of their “pet legacy program”.

If you require any assistance with your Estate Planning needs, get in touch with our friendly (pet loving) team today.