As a nation of animal lovers, it is perhaps surprising that, when considering our personal affairs and assets, it is likely that our home, bank accounts, shares and other financial aspects will be the first things that spring to mind. But what about a family pet? What happens in the event of the death of its owner, and can specific provision be made for a pet?
It is important to note firstly (and perhaps unsurprisingly) that, as animals are incapable of owning property, they cannot be the ‘object’ of a bequest. This essentially means that an animal cannot be left money/assets directly. With that in mind, you may then wonder how you can make provision for your pet to be taken care of after your death.
First and foremost, careful consideration, and an element of advance planning, is recommended when thinking about the future care of your pet after your death. Whilst your pet cannot be the object of a bequest it can, however, be the ‘subject’ of a bequest.
Legacy in your Will
What this means, in practical terms, is that you may opt to leave a cash sum in your Will to a particular individual on the condition that they use the sum bequeathed to them for the future care of your pet after your death. It is important that you talk this through with this individual during your lifetime to establish whether they are willing to take on the responsibility of your pet’s welfare after your death. You should be mindful of the fact, however, that there is no certainty or way of ensuring that your pet is being cared for in the way you would have wished.
A Trust arrangement?
It is entirely possible for a Trust arrangement to be considered in these circumstances with broadly the same premise i.e. a particular individual receiving provision from the Trust to take care of your pet. One may, however, consider this to be an overly complicated arrangement to purely cater for the ongoing welfare of a pet following the death of its owner. In certain Trust arrangements, it may be appropriate for you to prepare a separate ‘Letter of Wishes’ detailing how you would wish your pet to be cared for and maintained after your death. It would be prudent to note as much information as possible, including details of your pet’s new custodian, your pet’s name and breed, veterinary details, details of any dietary requirements and details of any pet insurance policy in place. These are simply a few suggestions; the list is non-exhaustive.
In conclusion, it is perfectly understandable that you may wish to ensure, as far as you possibly can, that your pet is cared for, in the manner that you wish, after your death. After all, pets are often treated as part of our family and their ongoing care is of paramount importance to us. It is, unfortunately, not as straightforward as the ‘celebrity pet’ stories we are used to seeing publicised in the media, citing famous pets that have been designated as the sole beneficiary of a vast celebrity estate. There are options available for you to consider and, key to each of those options, is planning in advance and having that discussion with the person that you would hope will take on the responsibility of caring for your pet after you are gone.
If you require any advice on this or any other matter involving estate planning or executry administration, please contact the Blackadders Private Client and Executries Teams, working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and across Scotland.
Blythe Petrie, Solicitor
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