Who will look after your pets?

Date: Nov 15, 2011
Document Type: Article

For many, the processes of estate planning involves thinking about their family and loved ones - trying to take their circumstances into account and considering what measures they would like to take to promote their future happiness.

In most cases the will-maker will attempt to ensure that their assets are put to good use - providing for their dependants as best they can.

But one area that is easy to overlook throughout the process of making a lasting will is that of other prized family members - pets.

While the law provides certain protections for siblings, relations and dependants, it offers little in the way of legal assurances for special furry, feathered, scaled or otherwise differently-covered friends.

However, with some planning pet-owners can ensure that their treasured pets can be looked after in the event of their death.

One of the most common ways of providing for a faithful companion is through the use of a legacy programme with an animal charity.

Funds are usually gifted to the organisation as part of the division of the estate and in return the group is charged with looking after the wellbeing of the valued companion - placing them in a special boarding facility or organising for them to find a new home.

For peace of mind, many of these organisations will offer to conduct a tour of the housing location.

These agencies may have special conditions attached to the services that they offer and as such should be contacted in advance of the will-drafting process.

In cases where you would prefer a more personal touch to the care provided to your favourite pet, a legacy request can be made of a close friend or family member.

It is important to talk this decision over with the parties concerned before the will is drafted to help make sure that the duty of care is understood - as well as to ensure that the funds made available are sufficient for the ongoing requirements. It is of particular importance that the will is drafted properly, because there can be issues about the enforceability of a trust for the care and maintenance of an animal.

Practical factors to consider here include the expected lifespan of the animal in question as well as the capacity for care that the family member or friend has at their disposal.

A third option is the development of a trust to provide funds for your pet's care - however this option requires a certain amount of consultation.

There are strict rules that govern the running of a fund and they must be considered before the funds are put to work.

Whichever avenue suits you best, discussing the options with family members and friends - as well as gaining the advice of a wills and estates lawyer - can help to ensure that the end choice works for everyone so that no party feels the need to challenge the will.

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