The UK are a nation of animal lovers; therefore, it seems only fitting that our pets are considered when it comes to making a Will.
Within a Will you can specify instructions relating to what you would like to happen to your pets if you were to die. If there is no instruction or you die intestate (without a will), then the decision over who your pets are adopted by is dependant upon whether someone is willing to take them on. If none of your friends or family can adopt your animals, then they could end up being split up and placed with an animal shelter. This is a situation that can be avoided with the help of well drafted and carefully planned Will provisions.
Within the Will you can specify a guardian to look after and become the legal owner of your animals. You can name more than one guardian, or indeed different guardians for different pets. If you do not have people to name as a guardian, then it does not matter as the provision can just be generally drafted and does not have to name someone specific. You can leave instructions for the guardians regarding care of your animals through a letter of wish. This letter of wish can specify anything from which type of food you would want your pet to be fed, insurance requirements to how you would like veterinary decisions concerning your pet to be made. An example of a request regarding pet insurance and animal welfare from a letter of wish can be found below;
“I ask that you maintain any pet insurance policy in force at the date of my death as far as possible, but if the present cover cannot be maintained I request you take out alternative cover for veterinary fees or accidents. I implore that you use your discretion and judgment when deciding what type of veterinary care and treatment they should need, taking into consideration the amount of suffering my Animal may have, the likelihood that the care or treatment will improve my Animals life expectancy and quality of life together with any recommendations the vet may make.”
Whilst it is not possible to leave a gift to an animal directly you can instead leave a sum of money to the guardian of your animals to go towards the care and maintenance of your pet for the remainder of its lifetime. This is especially recommended in instances where you have young pets or pets that have a lot of expenses. For example, if you owned a horse then you may want to leave a larger sum of money then you would for say a dog to reflect the cost of its care and upkeep.
Depending upon how you choose to structure the wording of the Will your wishes can be specific to the animal you own at the time of all animals that you may own at your death. The second option is more flexible than naming a specific animal in your Will as animals tend to have shorter life spans than humans and when the names animals passes away the provisions relating to animal care will lapse. If the wording were to be drafted to cover for example all dogs that you own at the time of your death, then even if you had one or ten dogs, they would all be provided for. Pet wishes are very personal and can vary greatly depending upon people’s circumstances.