There are approximately 20 million animals kept as pets in the UK. One in every two households in the UK have at least one pet.

We are definitely a nation of animal lovers but, despite worrying about what will happen to our pets should we die, how many of us actually make provision for our pets when we make our Wills?

In England and Wales pets such as dogs, cats, other small animals and horses are considered ‘personal chattels’ and as such it is possible to make provision for them in your Will. However, it is important to seek advice from a Solicitor to ensure that your Will is correctly drafted. For example, a clause leaving ‘£1,000 to my dog Rover’ will fail as an animal cannot own property!

If you haven’t made your Will yet or are thinking about making a new Will to include provision for your pets, consider the following:

  1. Who you would want to care for your pet if you should die? A friend or family members may be willing to look after your pet when you go on holiday but would they be able to provide long-term care? Make sure you have checked that they would be willing to take on responsibility for the pet long-term before making your Will
  2. Would your chosen carer be able to afford to look after your pet for its lifetime? If you are able to do so, providing a cash gift in your Will for the carer to help cover the cost of maintaining the pet for its lifetime is a good idea. The amount should reflect the costs of food, veterinary fees and insurance as appropriate. A cash gift of this type can be an incentive to the carer to look after the pet. Your Solicitor can draft a suitable clause so that the cash gift is conditional on the carer taking responsibility for the pet.
  3. As pets have a much shorter lifespan than humans, it is possible that you could own several pets in the period between making your Will and your death. For this reason it is better to include a general clause in your Will which makes provision for any pet you own at the date of your death, rather than naming and describing the pet you own now. If an individual pet is described in your Will, the clause will no longer be valid when that particular pet dies, even if you have a replacement pet. Your Solicitor can draft a suitable clause for you.
  4. Include a plan B.   If your chosen carer is unable to care for your pet when you die or if you do not have anyone suitable that you can name as your pet carer consider a pet charity scheme. Charities such as the RSPCA, Cinnamon Trust and The Dogs Trust operate schemes where you can register for them to care for your pet should you become unwell or die. The schemes often require that you include a clause in your Will stating that you wish the particular charity to look after your pet after your death and your Solicitor can help you tailor the clause to suit your particular requirements and circumstances.
  5. If you opt for an animal charity, it is important that you check with the charity before making your Will to make sure it is the right scheme for you. As with a cash gift to an individual carer, consider leaving a cash gift to your chosen animal charity to help support them with the care of your pet and others.

Making provision for your pet in your Will helps to put your mind at rest that they will be taken care of, in the way you would like, when you are gone. Don’t be embarrassed to discuss provision for your pets with your Solicitor – chances are they have a much loved pet too!