Establishing a Pet Clause in a Will

I recently helped a client complete a Will before she passed away from cancer, it was quite sudden. This client had no family in Australia however she did have a special companion, a cat named Millie, for whom she wanted to ensure a comfortable life after she passed away.

As my client’s death was imminent, we put in place a Power of Attorney so my client’s attorney could transfer funds to Millie’s new owner so my client knew there were no financial barriers to Millie’s ongoing care.

It’s easy to overlook providing for our pets in our Wills and yet we consider them to be an integral part of our families. We all presume we will outlive our pets, but what if you don’t?

Animals are property so a will maker gives them away rather than appoints a guardian for them. The people you appoint may not be able to take the pet so always include discretion of the trustee to give the pet to an appropriate person or an organisation (which captures a shelter that preferable has a pet legacy programme such as Animal Welfare League and RSPCA).

You can’t leave money to a pet in your Will but you can leave money to cover the pet’s expenses to the person that receives your pet (the carer). Some options to do this include:

  1. Giving a sum of money to a friend or relative with a non-binding request that they look after your pet;
  2. Leave the required specific sum money to a charity (preferably that has a pet legacy programme) in exchange for the charity to look after your pet;
  3. Set up a trust fund with a sum of money to be invested and used over time for your pet’s expenses; or
  4. Because you do not know how many pets will survive you and what their life expectancy will be, give an annual sum (CPI indexed to keep the amount current), payable to the carer for each year that each of your pets live after your death.

The key is preparing a thorough pet budget of how much to leave to the carer. If the carer changes, the payee of the annuity or gift also changes. Full flexibility.

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