Australians love their pets. In fact, we have the highest ownership of pets per household in the world! It is no surprise then that we consider pets as part of the family, although many of us have not given thought to what might happen to our pets if they outlive us.
How can you continue to look after your pet after you die?
Under Australian law, animals are classified as property therefore you can state in your Will how your pet is to be cared for.
A good idea is to:
Create a pet care plan — and share it
Write a detailed list of everything associated with caring for your pet. Include dietary restrictions, favourite toys and even temperament issues. All of this information will help identify friends or family members who may be up for the task.
If you do not make provisions for your pet under your Will the residuary beneficiary will inherit your pet. If you do not have a valid Will when you die your pet will go to your next of kin.
Look at the options set out below and think about which one best suits you and your pet.
Legacy to a friend
You can leave an amount of money to a friend or relative with a request that they look after your pet. If you have a trusted friend or family member this option may work very well.
It is important to note that any legacy cannot be binding on the person you give the money to; you are relying on their good will to accept the role. The Public Trustee strongly recommends you talk to the nominated person to ensure they are happy to take on the responsibility.
A legacy programme with an animal charity is a popular option. Under these programmes a gift of money is made to the charity to either re-home your pet or to place them in a facility that the charity operates.
You must contact the charities to find out the requirements for you to take advantage of their “pet legacy programme”. For your peace of mind you may also wish to visit their facilities to ensure that your pet would be happy with the accommodation.
You can set up a trust under your Will for the care and maintenance of your pet. It is important to note that a trust for an animal is a non-binding direction made to the trustee of the Will,
therefore your pet’s trust will not be enforced if the trustee is not willing to take on the role.
Select a reliable trustee and talk to them to ensure they are prepared to carry out the terms of the trust. The trustee will manage and provide the trust assets to the carer or organisation you nominate to provide daily care for your pet. Again, it is important that the carer gives their consent to care for your pet. You may also wish to consider appointing a substitute carer in case the first carer cannot or will not take on the role.
Important points to consider:
- If you are going to leave a legacy to care for your animal, you will need to estimate your pet’s expected life span and the costs of living (including food, veterinary expenses, grooming, toys etc) in order to set funds aside for their care.
- If your pet dies and there are unspent funds remaining, where do you wish that money to go?
- What would be the impact on your pet if you were to lose capacity? It may be a good idea to leave your attorney or guardian with instructions as to how to care for your pet in the event you no longer have the capacity to do so yourself.
No matter what decision you come to regarding the care of your pet, you should make your wishes known in your Will.
To discuss preparing an estate plan or Will and including provisions for your pets please call 1800 068 784 or Click here to make an appointment today.