It goes without saying that our pets are part of the family. As such, just as one would make provision for the wellbeing of their surviving human family members, it is imperative that one’s pet’s wellbeing is also considered.
According to The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS), too many animals that have outlived their owners end up in shelters or are “euthanised by well-meaning friends or family who aren’t able to offer that animal a home or a secure future”. To ensure this will not be the fate of your beloved pet, here are some options to consider.
Your Last Will & Testament is your greatest tool for ensuring your pet will be well looked after. Firstly, a caregiver must be appointed. This should be someone who knows your pet well and is prepared and able to take on the responsibility. This person should be consulted during your lifetime in order for them to address any concerns they may have and be informed of any and all requirements of owning your pet. This is due to the fact that even if they are appointed caregiver in your Will, they are under no legal obligation to take on the responsibility. The information you provide should include matters such as :
• The name, number and address of your pet’s veterinarian,
• Their food, allergies and dietary requirements,
• How and when they should be exercised,
• Any unusual behaviours, and
• Vaccination records.
In order to mitigate the financial burden on your caregiver, a Testamentary Trust should be created in your Will. One cannot legally bequeath funds directly to their pet, but funds can be bequeathed to a Testamentary Trust to be administered by a Trustee for the benefit of your pet. The Trust must be worded correctly to ensure the Trustee, together with the caregiver, utilise the funds solely for the care, maintenance and wellbeing of your pet.
Should the Trust be established solely for the pet’s lifetime, the termination clause must specify what is to happen to the remaining capital on your pet’s passing.
Letter of Wishes
Another option is to simply leave a Letter of Wishes indicating who you would like to take over the care of your pet. You can also leave a cash bequest to them with the instruction that these funds be used for your pet’s care and maintenance. This option does not, however, provide any assurance. While you may wholeheartedly trust this person, there is no guarantee they will keep your pet and use the funds solely for their benefit.
Speak to an Estate Law expert
Owning a pet is one of life’s greatest consolations, and as such they should never be taken for granted or disregarded. Abrahams & Gross Attorneys understands the importance of caring for all family members before and after one’s passing. Contact our Trusts and Estates team today for all your estate planning needs.
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The articles on these web pages are provided for general information purposes only. Whilst care has been taken to ensure accuracy, the content provided is not intended to stand alone as legal advice. Always consult a suitably qualified attorney on any specific legal problem or matter.