We are a nation of pet lovers. This was reflected clearly last year, particularly with dogs, as we witnessed a dramatic surge in puppy sales during the pandemic. Who wants to endure lockdown alone when you can spend your time with a four-legged friend? The average price of the most popular dog breeds more than doubled during lockdown as demand surged.
As any pet owner will tell you, having a furry companion is no slight undertaking. They require a lot of time, work and commitment, but are undoubtedly worth it. They become a part of your family and the thought of not caring for them is incomprehensible. Despite this level of affection, it is surprising that more people do not make provision for their pets in the event of their death.
Should I include my pet within my Will?
Including provision for your pet within your Will is the most effective safeguard for protecting your pet in the event of your death. This may be in the form of a legacy where you nominate your pet over to a family member, or trusted friend. Such a legacy would typically include a cash sum to assist with the cost of caring for your pet, and would be conditional on the nominated guardian accepting responsibility for your pet for the remainder of its lifetime.
Can I use a trust to protect my pet?
It is also possible to include a trust within your Will to provide for your pet. A discretionary trust is the most flexible trust structure and can be used to hold a sum of cash or other assets for the benefit of your pet. You can nominate the intended guardian as a potential beneficiary of the trust, and prepare a letter of wishes to set out detailed guidance on your wishes, for example that your pets should not be separated in the event of your death. Your trustees would exercise their discretion to make decisions in relation to the trust, and manage the trust funds to ensure they were used for the benefit of your pet.
A less conventional option is to establish a trust under your Will to allow your pet to continue living in your property for the remainder of its life, or until a suitable replacement home is found. This arrangement would require a carer to move into your property, and to reside there for the remainder of your pet's life. Although less common, this arrangement does occasionally come up in practice. Such a trust would be known as a liferent trust.
Would a charity care for my pet?
It is advisable to include replacement guardians for your pet within your Will in case your primary carer fails to survive, or is unable or unwilling to accept responsibility. It is possible to include a charitable beneficiary in this scenario, for example the Scottish SPCA or the Dogs Trust.
The Scottish SPCA also offers "Forever Care" and the Dogs Trust provides a "Canine Care Card". Both services are free, and are designed to care for a pet in the event of an owner's death. Both services require you to apply to join, and can also be referred to in your Will. For example, the Dogs Trust recommends including instructions in your Will.
Get in touch - we're here to help
If you have a pet and wish to ensure it is cared for in the event of your death, it is recommended you seek legal advice to include provision within your Will.
Elgin: 01343 542623
We have solicitors and offices across the country in Glasgow (next to Glasgow Central Station), Edinburgh (next to Haymarket Station), Inverness, Thurso, Elgin and Shetland - and working from home, ready to help in person or over the phone or on a zoom call.
We can provide the assistance you need to protect your assets and your loved ones. This will allow you to put your mind at ease, knowing everything is in hand.