How to plan pet care for after your death (page 2)
Write down your wishes
Although you should definitely make a verbal agreement with potential caregivers about caring for your pets, it’s a good idea to write your wishes down too. This is especially important if you want your pets to be looked after and rehomed by a charity.
Many people do this via their Will, although there are other written instructions you could and should make too (see further down the page).
Include your pet in your Will
When talking about the estate of someone who has died here in the UK, pets are classed as ‘personal chattels’, which essentially puts them in the same category as your furniture and other personal possessions. And yet, our pets are far from pieces of furniture; they’re sentient creatures that live in the hearts of our families. For this reason, it’s important to state your wishes regarding your pets in your Will.
Because the law deems that animals can’t provide a legal receipt or open a bank account, you can’t leave money to your pets themselves. Instead, you would need to bequeath a set amount of money to a named individual to be used for the care of your pets.
One thing to remember is that it may be weeks or even months after your passing that your loved ones are in a position to deal with your Will. Although you should lay out your wishes for your pets, it’s important to have a temporary carer in place for the time between your death and the Will reading.
Also, just because someone is named in your Will as a potential carer for your pets doesn’t mean that they’re legally bound to take in your animals. This is why it’s essential to have a conversation about your pets before adding instructions about their care to your Will. If you were to name a person in your Will who doesn’t want to offer a home to your pets, the Executors of your Will face the task of making alternative arrangements.
Of course, you will have to pay a solicitor to add your wishes regarding your pets to your Will. A money-saving tip is to avoid naming your pets in case you bring more into your house in the future – your Will can then cover any future pets too.
If you have a Will already, you could add a ‘codicil’ that’s specifically about your pets – a codicil lets you make amendments or additions to your existing Will without needing a new one. In your codicil you could apportion a set amount of money to the care of your pets and name the person you would like to handle this.
Without a Will, the future of your pets could hang in the balance and will probably fall to the Administrator of your estate to decide.
Write a ‘Letter of Wishes’
You should also write a ‘Letter of Wishes’ about your pets, giving details about their diet, activities, routine, vet’s information, regime, medical care, insurance details, and even the special treats your pets enjoy.
In this letter, you could explain a bit more about how any funds you leave for your pets should be allocated.
This is a great place to tell people how your pets should be looked after immediately following your death before long-term arrangements take effect or the Will is read.
Lasting Power of Attorney
Sadly, it’s not just death that can prevent us from being there for our precious animals. Sometimes an illness such as dementia means that you have to hand over Lasting Power of Attorney to someone else to act and make decisions on your behalf.
If you know that you may one day find yourself unable to care for your pets because of a degenerative illness, for example, it’s important to discuss your wishes for your fur babies with your loved ones so that you know they’ll be cared for in the future.
Set up a Discretionary Trust
If you’re worried about providing for your pets financially after your passing, you might want to consider setting up a ‘Discretionary Trust’.
With this, you can name someone as a Trustee and allow a certain amount of money to be transferred to that person from your estate to provide for your fur babies. This will usually enable your pets’ future caregiver to access funds to care for them sooner than waiting for the Will to be read.
If you live alone or are cared for at home
If you’re worried that no-one will be able to step in and help your pets should anything happen to you, there are a few steps you can take to give you peace of mind.
We would recommend writing a ‘Letter of Wishes’ as outlined above and leaving it somewhere highly visible – for example, stuck to your fridge with a magnet or next to your telephone. This should explain what pets you have and what should be done to care for them in the event of an emergency.
Some people put an ‘In case of emergency’ notice in their window or inside the front door letting people know what pets to look for in the house if something terrible were to happen. This can help to protect animals from perishing in house fires or being left unattended if you were to pass away suddenly.
In addition, some funeral plans - such as Co-op Funeralcare – include a Pet Card that you can keep in your purse or wallet to alert people that you have animals at home alone.
Protect your pet for life
It’s heart breaking to think of outliving our pets as it doesn’t really feel like the natural order of things. Sadly, life – and death – can throw the unexpected into our paths. The steps above can help to give you peace of mind that, even in death, you will have done everything in your power to protect your pets and give them a happy future. And what animal lover could do more?
Home for Life (RSPCA)
The Cat’s Protection League Guardian Service
The Dog’s Trust Canine Care Card
Blue Cross Pets into Care Scheme
The Cinnamon Trust