Have you ever wondered what might happen to your pets after you die? You may have family members who you are certain will care for your pets in the event of your death, but to be sure that occurs, you should consider making a provision for your pets’ care in your Will.

Although we often consider our pets as part of our family, as far as the law is concerned, they are   considered to be ‘property’.  This means you can make binding provisions for the care and control of your pets in your Will, and your executors would be bound to follow those instructions.

Such provision in your Will doesn’t need to refer to your pet by name or type but would be framed in terms of ‘any pets I own at the time of my death’. This means that if you obtain more pets in the future they would also be covered by the relevant provisions for their care and control in your Will. Similarly, if you had a clause in your Will relating to pets but you owned no pets at the time of your death, then the relevant clauses would become obsolete.

Depending upon your circumstances and personal needs, particular clauses can be included in a Will such as:

a) Giving your pet/s to an animal shelter of your choice with or without a cash gift/donation to provide for their care – many established animal welfare organisations who deal with adopting animals will have a ‘legacy’ program whereby you can give your pets to them upon your death as well as an option to give a cash gift which would fund your pets care for their lifetime (food, vet bills etc);

b) Gift your pet/s to a chosen family member/friend with or without a cash gift. If giving a cash gift which you intend will be used to assist the person to care for your pets, you have the option to make the gift dependent on the person agreeing to care for your pets for its lifetime;

c) Provide a legacy to a chosen family member/friend with a non-binding request to also look after your pets.

d) Provide directions in your Will that any pets you may own at the time of your death are to be humanely euthanised. This should obviously be seen as a last resort.

The above options are only some of the “usual” directions that can be considered and may not necessarily “fit” your particular circumstances. You should also keep in mind that for your Will to be valid, and for any directions you may wish to leave regarding the care of your pets to be binding, your Will needs to comply with very specific legal technicalities. It is therefore very important to engage a Solicitor and discuss fully with them your wishes and concerns as regards your pet’s future care and control. Contrary to a widely held belief, in Australia it is not possible to make your pet your beneficiary-gifts in a will must  be made to  a person or an institution recognized by the law.

This article is intended to be general in nature and not intended to constitute legal advice.

WMD Law has a team of experienced and dedicated Lawyers who can assist with writing your will or updating an existing will.  Please do not hesitate to contact our Will and Estate experts on 9525 8688 or email info@wmdlaw.com.au.  We also invite you to download our free Estate Planning eGuide.