Many people worry about what will happen to their pets after they die. Pets are often considered a part of the family. To ensure that your beloved pet will continue to receive the care you would like in the event of your death, it’s important to plan ahead.

Did you know that you can provide for your pets in your Will? You cannot leave money or property directly to your pet, however much you love it. This is because pets are not capable of inheriting money or property under our law. However, as the law treats pets as your property, your pets can pass under a Will like any other assets.

So how can you provide for your pets in your Will? Some options you can specify in your Will and things to consider with those options are:

  • Leaving a sum of money to an animal charity with a legacy program, such as the RSPCA or the Animal Welfare League.

This usually involves leaving a gift of money in exchange for the charity caring for or re-homing the animal. This will be suitable for people who do not have anyone to look after the pet. It is advisable to contact the chosen charity in advance to find out about their programs and to ask about their preferred bequest clause wording.

  • Incorporating a testamentary trust in your Will whereby you appoint a trustee to manage the trust and provide physical care for your pet (or you could appoint a trustee to manage the trust and appoint a trusted friend as the physical carer).

As this option involves money going into a trust and your appointed trustee being directed to use the capital and income for the benefit of your pet, you need to ensure that there are sufficient funds for the trust to last the pet’s lifetime. It’s also very important that your Will provides for who is to receive the unspent money in the trust when your pet dies and the trust comes to an end.

  • Leaving your pet to a friend, neighbour or family member, either with or without a gift of a sum of money.

It is a good idea to check that the nominated person agrees to take on the pet beforehand and it is not advisable to include impractical directions (eg, “My pet must be taken for a walk twice a day” or “My pet must only be fed organic thinly sliced meat”). The gift of money is optional, but if it is calculated to cover the costs of maintaining the pet during their lifetime, it will act as an incentive for the nominated person to keep the pet and follow your wishes.

Think about all the options available and which would suit the needs of your pet best. Whichever option you select, make sure you leave written details about the pet and veterinary documents to be placed with your Will.

Lastly, it is essential to have legal advice when making a Will, whether or not it involves provision for a pet as you need to ensure that the Will is practicable, worded correctly and legally enforceable.