Pets and Wills – The Importance of Making Provisions for Your Pet in Your Will
Did you know there are over 29 million pets in Australia, and around 65% of Australian households have at least one furry, scaly, or feathered friend? Pets and companion animals are a much loved part of so many families, however, what happens to these special friends if their owners are no longer around to care for them? As owners, it is important to consider options for their care should you become unable to continue, and for when you die. Fortunately, you can use your Will to make sure your pet is cared for after you pass away – and it isn’t that hard to do. Read on to find out more.
What is the Legal Status Of Pets?
Under Australian law, domesticated animals are classified as property, specifically other personal and moveable property (chattels). This is the case whether the animal is a pet, companion animal, or an animal used in agriculture. As your pets and companion animals are classified as property, you can use your Will to make provision for their care.
What Can You Do for Your Pets Through a Will?
- Nominate a Carer – Most pet owners want the peace of mind of knowing that a trusted friend or family member will look after their pet after they have died. If you have a trusted person who is willing and able to adequately care for your pet, you can nominate them as a carer. It is important to check with them that they will be happy to take your pet on before you have your Will prepared. Even if they agree, you should also provide an alternative just in case they are unable or unwilling to do it when the time comes, or if they pre-decease you.
- Make Provisions for Their Care – In addition to nominating a carer, you can leave the carer a sum of money to cover the pet’s reasonable costs based on your experience. This may include food, grooming, and healthcare expenses for rest of their expected life. It is possible to establish a trust fund in your Will for the purpose of your pet’s care and maintenance however, you would need to appoint someone as a trustee to do this.
- Rehome Your Pet – If you don’t have any trusted people that are willing or able to care for your pet, you might wish to leave your little friend to a registered pet rescue centre or pet shelter to be re-homed or adopted by another animal-lover. You can organise this directly with the animal welfare organisation that you choose and have it documented in your Will.
- Prepare a Pet Profile – No one knows your pet like you do, so a pet profile can help others who don’t know your pet as intimately as you to understand their needs. Include all the information you can think of including medical history, vet’s name and details, food and exercise requirements, behavioural traits, how they interact with humans and other pets, grooming needs, sleeping arrangements, and more. Your pet profile should be included with your Will.
Other Things You May Wish to Consider
There are several other factors that you may need to think about when determining care for your pets in the event that you are no longer around. Some animals have very long lifespans; turtles, koi fish and parrots can live up to 100 years or more. If a trust fund is established to care for such animals, it should be established appropriately so it does not infringe the rule against perpetuities. It’s also important to consider future expenses that might be incurred due to health conditions or potential health problems. Some breeds of dog and cat are more susceptible to illnesses, joint conditions, or other health issues at some point or another. These health problems can be expensive to treat so it might be a good idea to make sure the carer you nominate has the money to pay for that treatment. Finally, if your pet has any special needs then you might also wish to allow additional funds so that the carer can modify their home to make it appropriate for your pet to live comfortably and safely.
What If No Arrangements Are Made?
According to the law, your pets are your property. If you don’t make any specific arrangements for them in your Will, they form part of your residuary estate. This means that whoever you have nominated to inherit the residue of your estate will then be entitled to take your pets. This may not be a problem however, difficulties may arise if this person is unable to care for your pet, and disputes can occur if multiple people wish to take your pet in.
Seek Legal Advice From a Local Family Lawyer – Ringwood’s Robert Wood and Associates Can Help
As the lawyers Vermont, Boronia, and Ringwood families rely on, we can assist with all matters relating to Wills and Probate. If you want to ensure all of your family members, including your precious pets, will be cared for after you die, it’s vital to have a valid Will in place. It is important that the wording in your Will reflects your intentions so you can be confident that your treasured pets will be loved and well-cared once you pass away. Make an appointment with our team today online or by calling (03) 9762 3877.
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