Can I include my pet in my will? | Providing for your pets by leaving money in a pet trust in your estate plan 

Paws-itively Secure Pets! Ensuring Pets Have Long-Term Financial Security Through your Estate Plan

We all love our pets and you will want to make sure your pet is taken care of even after we’re gone. Pets can be part of the family, so it makes sense that you would want your pet to be provided for in your Will or Trust! But what do you need to know when putting your financial plan in place for your furry (or scaly) friends?

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can ensure that you care for your pet with long-term financial security through Wills and Trusts. So let’s get started on creating a plan that will give your beloved pet the best chance at living their best life!

Creating a Pet Trust

Pets Cannot Inherit from Their Owners – Establish a Pet Trust for Care

The law considers pets to be property (your personal tangible property), which highlights the importance of creating a trust to provide for their care when their owners pass away. Pets cannot directly inherit from their owners – you cannot leave money or property to a pet, so it is important to establish a legal pet trust to ensure they will be cared for and provided for financially in the event of the owner’s death.

A pet trust allows an owner to name a guardian who will be responsible for the pet’s care, designate funds to cover costs such as veterinary bills and grooming, and set out instructions on how these funds should be used.

Without a properly established pet trust, there is no guarantee that any money left in a Will or estate would actually go towards taking care of your pet—it could easily get absorbed into other costs and debts associated with your estate. Pets also have limited legal rights and are unable to inherit property directly, so having a legally recognized document like a pet trust is essential if you wish to provide for them after you pass away.

You can create a Pet Trust directly in your Will

Any Will created at LegalWills gives you the option of preparing a pet trust.

Creating a Pet Trust at LegalWills
Creating a Pet Trust at LegalWills

The Pet Trust option at LegalWills doesn’t rely simply on leaving an amount to a caregiver. The total amount is paid out in a single lump sum to the caregiver, but it calculated based on the age of the pet at the time of your death, and the life expectancy of the pet. You can then specify an annual sum and this would be multiplied by the forecasted number of pet care years.

According to the lifetime cost of a dog for example ranges from £5000-£12,200. Monthly costs can be up to £75 a month.

According to Statista, the average yearly cost of owning a dog in the UK is £1,875, as of January 2022. 

This graphic from the PDSA gives an estimate of some other pets.

Cost of caring for a pet

What does a Pet Trust clause look like?

At LegalWills we insert the following clause into our Wills based on the information shown in the graphic above:

Gift for Care of Animal

This gift shall leave a sum of money as a bequest payable to Janey Smith PROVIDED THAT Janey Smith looks after my Chihuahua, named Tyson, free of tax for Tyson’s upkeep and maintenance (hereinafter called “Tyson’s fund”). If this person is unable or unwilling to act for any reason, then Tyson’s fund should be paid to Bobby Green PROVIDED THAT Bobby Green serves in place of Janey Smith. In other words, you want to make sure your beloved Chihuahua named Tyson is taken care of when you pass away. So, by setting up a trust fund, you can take care of your pet by leaving some money as a gift to Janey Smith, but only if she agrees to take care of Tyson without having to pay taxes on the money used for his upkeep and maintenance. If Janey can’t do it, then the money will go to Bobby Green, so long as he agrees to take care of Tyson instead.

The amount of Tyson’s fund is to be calculated on the basis of Tyson’s age at the date of my death.  Let’s assume for example, that Tyson’s life expectancy is 10 years of age, and that the average annual cost of Tyson’s upkeep and maintenance is £2,000. Tyson’s fund will therefore be an amount calculated by multiplying the annual sum of £2,000 by the number of full years and full months between the date of my death and December 31, 2030 (the end of the life expectancy of Tyson, poor little guy). In the unfortunate event that the pet dies before the date of my death then this gift shall fail.

Pets should be named explicitly in the trust, including their breed, age and gender.

It is important to include each pet’s specific details in the pet trust in order to ensure they are properly identified and provided for according to an owner’s wishes. Pets of different breeds may require different levels of care, so including a pet’s breed in the trust is important for making sure any funds set aside can cover the particular needs of that type of pet.

Additionally, age and gender may also affect decisions about what kind of living arrangements are best for a pet; for instance, older pets may need more frequent visits to the vet or require more specialized care than younger ones. By providing these details in the trust, owners can ensure that their pets will receive appropriate care based on their individual needs after they pass away.

Add specific instructions for the care of the pet in your estate plan, such as providing an appropriate diet and veterinary care, regular exercise and any other necessary attention.

We don’t recommend including this information in the Will itself, but in a letter than accompanies the Will. Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document (in a sense, a contract) which implies that there would be repercussions for not following the instructions, and somebody would have to monitor the care of the pet. If the instructions are included in a separate letter, they are your wishes which serve as a guideline for the pet’s care.

Including specific instructions for the care of your pet in the pet trust is vital to making sure they get the love, care and attention they need after you pass away. Pets require a variety of different types of care depending on their breed, age and gender; for instance, older pets may need more frequent visits to the vet or special treatments for age-related illnesses.

Additionally, including instructions about regular vet check-ups and preventative health care is important for maintaining a pet’s overall health and well-being over time. Ultimately, providing detailed instructions in your pet trust will ensure that your beloved companion is being cared for properly even in your absence.

Pets can be left to someone who is willing to take responsibility for them, known as a guardian or caretaker.

When choosing a guardian or caretaker make sure they understand their responsibility and are financially able to provide for the pet’s needs.

When leaving a pet in your will, it is important to name someone who is willing to take responsibility for them as their guardian or caretaker. This person should understand the commitment they are taking on and be financially secure enough to provide for all of the pet’s needs.

Pets require both physical and emotional care, so it is important to choose a guardian who is both able and willing to provide that kind of attention over time. Pets also often have special dietary requirements, medical needs or exercise routines that will need to be taken into account, so making sure the guardian understands these needs ahead of time can help ensure that the pet receives appropriate care down the road.

Additionally, it may also be helpful to include them in your estate with a trust specifically for the care of your pet; this way the guardian can rest assured knowing there is money available if unexpected costs arise in the future.

You should not leave your pet alone without a guardian in your estate plan

If this happens then it becomes the court’s decision on how they wish to manage the situation. In most cases they may appoint someone to be the pet’s guardian or they may even donate the pet to an animal shelter.

When leaving a pet in one’s will, it is important to name someone as their guardian or caretaker who is willing to take on the responsibility of looking after and caring for the pet. Pets require physical and emotional care, so this person should be both able and willing to give the pet the attention it needs over time.

Pets often have specific dietary requirements, medical needs or exercise routines that must be taken into account when providing care. The guardian should understand these needs ahead of time, to ensure that the pet receives all of the necessary care and attention they need once the owner has passed away.

Additionally, making arrangements for your pet in a trust specifically for the pet’s care can help ensure that any unexpected costs down the line are covered appropriately.

You should set aside funds that align with what is necessary for their care. 

The amount of money left will depend on factors such as how old and healthy the pet is. It is recommended that no less than £1,500 per year per pet be specified in a trust fund so that their medical needs and vet care can be taken care of over their lifetime.

Should you decide to set aside money for your pet in a trust specifically for the care of pets, arrangements should be made to align with the expenses of your pet as closely as possible. Pets have unique and often specific needs when it comes to their diet, exercise and health that must be taken into consideration when deciding how much to contribute to a pet trust. Making these arrangements for your pet in your estate plan, will give the caregiver for your pet the funds they need to take good care of your pet after you die. 

Careful planning of the contribution amount to a pet trust can ensure that any unexpected costs or medical expenses down the line are covered appropriately. Pets also require ongoing vet visits throughout their lives, as well as regular preventative health care such as vaccinations and flea/tick prevention, which all cost money. Additionally, older pets may need special treatments such as medication or surgery if age-related illnesses arise. It is important to consider these events in your estate plan to make sure your pet is cared for should they happen. Pets are well cared for when their owners receive the money they need to provide that care.

All of these costs can add up quickly over time, making it difficult for one person to cover them all without prior preparation. By estate planning for pets, specifically leaving money for the care of a pet, you are ensuring that these costs will be provided for should your pet outlive you, and leave your pet in good care.

Make sure all care instructions are written down clearly and included while estate planning for pets, as well as leaving detailed instructions with the named pet guardian or caretaker. 

When it comes to estate planning for pets, it’s crucial to ensure that all care instructions are written down clearly and included in your estate planning documents. This will help ensure your pet is cared for and give you peace of mind that your provided money will be used effectively by the trustee of your pet trust. These instructions should cover everything from your pet’s feeding and exercise routines to any medications they may need. It’s important to be as specific and detailed as possible, so there’s no confusion about how to properly care for your pet. These details are needed for your beneficiary to use the money how you intend as the new pet owner.

It’s a good idea to update your pet owner’s instructions regularly as your pet ages, especially if there are any changes to your pet’s health or behaviour. For example, if your pet develops a new medical condition, you’ll want to make sure that their caretaker is aware of this and knows how to properly manage it. This way, your caregiver will be able to use the money effectively from your pet trust with the help of your updated instructions. 

You may also want to provide information about your pet’s personality and any particular likes or dislikes they have. For instance, if your pet is shy or anxious, it’s important to let their caretaker know how to approach them and make them feel comfortable. Similarly, if your pet has a favourite toy or enjoys a certain type of treat, providing this information can help their caretaker create a positive and nurturing environment for them.

In conclusion, when planning for the care of your pets after you pass away, it’s important to make sure that all care instructions are clearly written down and included in your estate planning documents. It’s also crucial to choose a trusted pet guardian or caretaker and leave detailed instructions with them about how to properly care for your pet. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your furry friend will be well taken care of even after you’re gone.

A word on charitable bequests

Your Will is also a perfect place for recognizing the work of animal charities. If there is a particular animal charity that means a lot to you, for example, the humane society, you can leave money to that charity to help them to further their work. This charitable bequest can be a cash gift, a percentage of your residuary estate, or even personal possessions (although I would check with the animal charity before donating personal chattels.

Create Pet Trust today using LegalWills

Using the service at LegalWills you can prepare a legally binding Will including a pet trust with a pet guardian. The cost for the Will service is £49.95 and the whole process takes about 20 minutes.

We suggest that you get started right now, even if you don’t know exactly what you would like to include in your pet clause.

We also strongly recommend that you review your Will from time-to-time to make sure that it is always kept up to date.