What happens to your pets in the event of your death?

Our pets are more than just cats and dogs; they’re closer to family members.
What happens to your pets in the event of your death?

Our pets are more than just cats and dogs; they’re closer to family members, and their wellbeing is naturally going to be a priority for every one of us. However, being concerned for their future means planning for it. Setting down your wishes in a legal Will can mean the difference between your pets being cared for, loved and looked after, or being given up for adoption or to the RSPCA. If you pass away, you want to have the security of your pets locked in.

Without a Will, your pets will be transferred into the care of your friends, family, and guardians. In these cases, it is not uncommon for pets to be sent to a boarding facility or rescue facility if they have not been accounted for in your Will.

It’s a huge worry, if you don’t have these steps covered. Unfortunately, life can be unpredictable, and if the worst happens, your pets could suffer unnecessarily without documentation created and signed off.

Unfortunately - your pet cannot be a beneficiary

In Australia, you are not able to leave your estate to your pet as a beneficiary, with a trustee to take care of them. Although this sounds like a great option in other locations, it’s simply not possible. This means that your plans must treat them as an asset, and distribute them accordingly.

In your Will, you can determine the ways in which your assets are managed after you're gone, which does give you some control over how your pet is cared for. You can set this out in your Will, and organise it with the beneficiary who will “inherit” your pet.

Organising your Will

If you die suddenly and unexpectedly without a Will, it may be difficult for someone to manage your estate, so you need to make sure it is protected before you are gone. In Australia, a pet is considered to be property, and therefore must be assigned to a beneficiary to care for. However, you can make provisions for the way in which they are looked after, and their health and home.

An important step is to ensure that the beneficiary you are leaving your pet to is comfortable with animals and shows the right nurturing spirit in taking them in. While your Will can provide for a pet and ensure they go to the right place, choosing their new home is the most important part.

You should also consider setting aside resources and money that will allow your beneficiary to provide the best possible care for your pet. This will ensure that veterinary bills, expenses and treatments are covered, and can go some of the way towards defraying the cost of their food and board.

Beyond the legalities

It’s also a good idea to leave behind as much of a guide to caring for your cat or dog (or other type of pet) as you can. You know them better than anyone, and you know how to look after them. If you can give your beneficiary that information, it will help them to do the job they’ve agreed in taking your pet in, and it will help your pet to continue to be happily loved and seen to after you pass away. On a basic level, this can be a guide to the food they like to eat, but it could also include lists of your preferred veterinary providers and groomers.

Ultimately, the more you plan, the better you’ll feel

While it’s impossible to plan for everything, as long as you have set out your intentions to the best of your abilities, and as long as you have a legal Will, you can sleep soundly. Every family is different, but caring for every family member is your responsibility, particularly when they aren’t able to care for themselves. Treating your family pet as a legal priority is the right thing to do.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.

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