Making Provision for Pets in Wills
Case Study: Charlie the Probate Cat
In 2011 an elderly lady died and she left behind her beloved cat, Charlie. All of the deceased’s family had dogs of which Charlie was terrified and so she couldn’t live with them. The family tried all of the local shelters: RSPCA, Cats Protection, Margaret Green Animal Rescue, and they were all at maximum capacity. There was a waiting list of 200 cats to be re-homed in the Poole & Bournemouth area. Things were looking pretty dire for Charlie until a soft hearted solicitor took pity on her and took her in. My colleagues often asked how “the Probate Cat” was settling in to her new home (with me).
However you can’t always rely on Private Client solicitors to take in otherwise homeless pets. That is why it is very sensible to make provision for animal companions in your Will.
What to include in Your Will
The first point to consider is whether you know anyone who could act as a guardian to your pet. Perhaps a friend or family member who already has a relationship with them. You can appoint that person to be the guardian of your pet under your Will, in the same way that you would appoint a guardian for your child. You should discuss this point with the guardian so that they are aware of your wishes and to ensure that they are willing to take on the role.
If you bear in mind the lengthy life span of some pets, for example parrots or tortoises, this is quite a commitment and so you should be certain that they want to take responsibility for your pet before altering your Will.
The second point to consider is whether you should leave a gift to accompany the pet so that the guardian is not out of pocket. Your pet will incur expenses such as food, grooming and insurance which all add up over time. Some animals have very high living costs – for example, horses may require stabling fees, and some pets require expensive regular medicines.
Cash can simply be left as a gift to the guardian with a request that they re-home your pet for the rest of its natural life. Alternatively it is sometimes appropriate to set up a simple Trust and choose Trustees to manage a fund to provide for a specific pet.
If you can’t think of anyone to care for your pets you can appoint a Cat Guardian via the Cat Protection Trust or ask the RSPCA to take responsibility for caring for your pets via the Home For Life service. Both provide peace of mind that your pets will be rehomed and if you use these facilities you may wish to leave a legacy to the relevant charity as a “thank you”.
If you would like to talk with one of our lawyers regarding updating your Will, please call one of our local offices:
Bournemouth on 01202 525333
Poole (Canford Cliffs) on 01202 709898
Ringwood on 01425 484848
Swanage on 01929 422233