This is Tallulah, my youngest cat who went a long way to helping me get through the difficulties of lockdown.  It is estimated that 3.2 million households acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic and that there are now 17 million homes in the UK with pets.

The pandemic has also made many of us think about our own mortality. Understandably, people want to ensure that their pets are cared for after they die.

Here are some things you may wish to consider.

  1. Do you want any gift to apply to your current pet only or to any pet which you own when you die?
  2. Do you want your pet to be looked after by a particular person and would they be willing to take on the responsibility? This could include financial provision for the care of the pet by leaving that person an absolute gift.  Should you appoint a substitute beneficiary in case a primary beneficiary is not willing to care for the animal or if they have died before you?
  3. If there is no one suitable or, as an alternative you could consider: –
  4. Leaving your pet to your executors setting out details of care in a letter of wishes. The advantage of a gift to executors is that there is no danger of the gift lapsing and the testator can leave it to the executors to exercise their judgement to find someone suitable.
  5. Make financial provision for your pet through the use of a trust which could give some flexibility (although the trust should be limited to a period of 21 years and there may be practical issues in relation to such trusts such as the associated costs of running a trust);
  6. If you would like your pet to be cared for by an animal welfare charity (e.g. The Dogs Trust), you could leave a gift to that charity requesting them to find your animal a home. It is sometimes possible to register your pet with a charity before you die and a gift to the charity could be used as a default option in case the gift to your primary beneficiary has lapsed.
  7. How much should you leave by way of gift? The popstar, Michael Jackson, left $2 million for the care of his chimp Bubbles and Karl Lagerfeld, the fashion designer, left his cat, Choupette, a significant share of his estate. You should consider the age and life expectancy of the animal (compare a dog with a parrot!), and bear in mind that costs such as medication and vet bills may increase as the animal gets older.

If your pet has insurance, this is something else to be factored in when considering the amount of the gift.

Make sure that financial provision is adequate.  Otherwise, the beneficiary may be reluctant to accept the gift of your pet.  The executors may also have limited power to adjust the level of financial provision in those circumstances unless the residuary beneficiaries are in agreement.

Consequently, you should review your Will from time to time to ensure that any change in circumstances has been considered.  You could also index link the gift to provide for inflation.

Should the gift be conditional on the beneficiary looking after your pet?

Please contact Nicole or the team for more information on making a Will.