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Who is going to look after your Easter Bunny?

View profile for Tom Couch
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The pet supplies retailer, Pets at Home, has of late benefitted from positive publicity due to its policy of temporarily halting the sale and adoption of rabbits over the Easter weekend in an attempt to discourage prospective purchasers from making impulsive purchases of rabbits.

For many pet owners, rabbits and alike are not just animals they keep, but friends, companions, and members of the family. For this reason, and in view of the upcoming festivities, I will ask the question, who is going to look after your rabbit (and indeed all other animals) when you die?

Provision for Pets

Considering what will happen to your pet when you die is an important step to protect an animal’s welfare. In England and Wales, it is not possible to leave money to your pet in your Will to look after themselves. Gifts of money, or so called ‘pecuniary legacies’, must be made in a Will to an identifiable human beneficiary or legal beneficiary, such as a company or charity. The reason being, is that the law regards pets as ‘chattels’ (an item of tangible or intangible personal property), and as such, they cannot be a beneficiary.

Instead of leaving money to your pet directly, you could put money into a Trust to apply the income of the trust for the maintenance of your pet during the period of perpetuity (the length of the life of your pet or after 21 years, whichever happens first). Whilst it is lawful for your Trustees to give effect to a Trust of this nature, your pet cannot enforce it, and so its efficacy therefore depends upon the goodwill and conscientiousness of your Trustees.

You could nominate someone in your Will to take over the care of your pet should anything happen to you. For this purpose, it is common for a Will to specifically gift the pet to another, together with a gift of money to the intended beneficiary to ensure that they can provide your pet with the care and maintenance that it deserves. Alternatively, you could request that your pet be given to a specific charity, such as the RSPCA’s ‘Home for life’ service, or be put to sleep unless a suitable home is found.

Overall, besides being an important consideration for the ongoing care for your pets, creating a Will is also an invaluable step in estate planning. It can make the estate administration process clearer and more straightforward; it can often prevent unnecessary stress for loved ones at an already difficult time, and it can ensure that your assets are distributed as you wish.