How to provide for pets in your will

In Drafting a will

As a nation of animal lovers, we want to know our pets are in safe and loving hands. A will helps you ensure your pets are properly looked after once you’re gone.
 

Why do you need a will for pets?


A will is a legal document that outlines your instructions, wishes, and requests once you pass away.
There’s no legal requirement to put your pet in your will, and you may have already made some informal arrangement with a relative or friend to care for your pet.

But a will stops any disagreements over ownership, which can cause a lot of stress for animals.
You’ll also be able to make proper provisions for your pet on your terms, making sure they can continue enjoying the life you know they love.
 

How can you provide for pets in a will?

  • Leaving assets


Like any loving pet-owner, your instinct will probably be to leave what you can to your pet. That’s a mistake.
However smart they may be, a pet isn’t considered a legal entity. They has no way of receiving gifts or money. They can’t open a bank account, or properly store their new-found estate.

If your will makes this sort of request, the instructions would be considered invalid. Those gifts would then pass on down the line of inheritance to someone who could take receipt of them.
 
 
  • Choosing a guardian


Legally speaking, your pets are known as ‘personal chattels’. They are, effectively, an asset of your estate just like your home or your car (but with bags more personality!), which means you’re free to gift them to someone else in the event of your death.

Take time to consider who is best placed to look after your furry friend. Can you trust them? Do they love animals? Are they willing to take on a pet? Have this conversation with anyone you consider good guardian material. You know better than anyone who can provide the right life for them.

Your will should also include a substitute guardian. That way, if your original choice is unwilling or unable to perform the role, your back-up choice can step in.
 
 
  • Gifting to an animal charity


If you can’t decide on a suitable guardian, you can gift your pet to an animal charity like the RSPCA. Lots of them provide re-homing services – and you know, as dedicated animal charities, they only let animals go to truly loving homes.

Donating to charitable organisations in your will can also help reduce inheritance tax for your loved ones, but it’s best to get legal advice for this.
 
 
  • Covering care costs


Use your will to make sure the person looking after your pet can give them the proper care they need. This usually takes the form of a cash gift from your estate – but your will should make clear that this is only to be spent on maintaining your pet, while your pet is alive. Remember to name your pet in the will, and update your will if you get any more pets in future. 

It’s a good idea to speak to a solicitor or will-writer for this, as getting the wording right is very important. Your will should be clear and unambiguous to prevent a legal challenge.
 
 
  • Instructing specific care


You’re able to leave specific requests to your pet’s guardian. For example, they must visit the vet every three months, or they may only eat kippers for breakfast. And your guardian is free to oblige.

However, these requests are not legally binding. The guardian doesn’t have to follow these instructions. For this reason, if you wish to make specific requests for the care of your pet, choose your guardian carefully, and discuss these requests in advance.

 

How do you write a will with your pet in it?


There are three ways to write a will: do-it-yourself, or use a professional will writer or solicitor. While DIY wills can be risky, especially with complex instructions, a solicitor or will writer can help you get it right first time – so, you know your pet will get the care it deserves.

Find and compare solicitors and will writers near you for free with The Law Superstore. Tailored quotes that are right your needs and your budget.
 
 

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