What happens to your pet if you pass away?

Camille Broadhurst

Our dogs and cats, and sometimes more exotic creatures, make up the estimated 38 million pets in Australia and their care and future ought to be considered when drafting your Will. You need to consider what happens to your pet if you pass away.

Pets are classified by Australian law as personal property, so can become gifts under our Will, coming under a commonly understood definition of “household goods”.

Planning for our pets gives us peace of mind and offers security and certainty to our pets on how they are to be looked after when we are no longer around. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved under a Will.

The most simple is to gift your pet to a person that you know who will care for your pet as you wish. It is usual then, but not required, to give money as well as the pet, with a request that the money be put towards the pet’s care and maintenance.  As a request is not binding it is important that the person you choose be trustworthy to both carrying out your wishes on how to look after your pet and applying the gift of money towards your pet’s well-being.  You should discuss this with who you want to look after the pet in advance so there are “no surprises”.

Alternatively, you may give your pet to an animal charity, which again is drafted as a gift under your Will. It is prudent to contact the animal charity that you are considering to ascertain its requirements.  Some require a minimum monetary gift to either look after or re-house your pet. Others require forms to be completed. Remember, you can always cancel the gift of money if you no longer have a pet at the time of your death.

Some pet gifts are cascading in that the pet first goes to a named person but if that friend is unable to look after the pet then to another named person or a named animal charity and so on. The Will can be drafted to ensure that any gift of money flows to the eventual pet carer.

A testamentary trust can also be set up under your Will to provide for the continuing care and maintenance of your pet. This is more involved but can be done and is perhaps the most secure way of ensuring that any monetary gift is used for the correct purpose.

There are certain formulas used when calculating the amount of money to give with your pet. Such considerations are the type of animal you have, it’s age and health, your pet’s life expectancy, any peculiar characteristics your pet may have and the life style that your pet has become accustomed to and that you may wish to be continued. All this and more can be addressed in your Will.

If you are concerned about what happens to your pet if you pass away or if you need assistance in drafting your Will including your pets, please contact Russell Kennedy Lawyers on (02) 8987 0000.

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