Every pet owner out there will tell you their pet is more like a member of the family. If that’s the case, they should also be taken into consideration during estate planning. If you have children 👪, chances are you’ve organised a guardian for them in case something were to happen to you, but have you done the same for your fur babies? 🐩
Pets are considered property under law, so technically speaking, pet guardianship isn’t a thing. Your pets are placed in the same category as your 🚗 or 🖥, so whoever ends up with them assumes ownership. Pets are often forgotten when estate planning because everyone expects to outlive their pet…dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, they all have a relatively short lifespan when compared to humans. You may even have several pets over your lifetime.
However, to prevent your pet from having nowhere to go (or going with someone you wouldn’t prefer) after you die, take the following steps:
- Find at least two friends or relatives who agree to take over the care of your pet if something were to happen to you. Make sure they have keys to your 🏠, feeding/care instructions, contact information for the vet, and anything else you think they should know. Consider asking the same people you use as a pet sitter when you go away on vacation.
- Carry emergency instructions in your wallet for information regarding your pets. This way, if emergency services find you, they’ll be aware you are a pet owner and can see that someone is notified.
Making informal arrangements for your pet is the first step towards peace of mind if something were to happen to you. Pets 🐾 need immediate attention, and getting to the will along with your instructed care, can take a while.
How can I ensure my pet will be taken care of after my death?
Formal arrangements are 🔑 for this. Don’t simply rely on the verbal promise of a friend or family member from 5 years ago. Make sure to have a legal document drawn up to provide for the care and ownership of your pet, along with any money you’d like to leave on behalf of their care. This is just another example of why you should have a will!
How do I choose a guardian for my pet?
Ultimately, you have to do what you think is best. If you have multiple pets, it may be difficult finding someone who is willing to take care of all of them, and you may need to split them up 😥. To choose a guardian for your pet, consider people like adult children, parents, siblings, or friends that have taken care of your pet in the past, or even have pets themselves. As yourself the following questions to see if they’ll be a good fit:
- Can they physically handle taking care of your pet?
- Will they take care of them the same way you did?
- Have they already bonded with your pet?
- Do they live in a similar neighbourhood or area?
- Do they have the time to take care of your pet?
It’s also a good idea to choose a back-up, in case the first choice changes their mind, or is unable to take on ownership of your pets. Remember, because it’s technically pet ownership, and not guardianship, whoever you choose will have the full discretion in how to care for your pet — which may be against your wishes 😳. You’ll want to choose someone you know you can trust!
How can I prepare someone to take over pet care?
Honestly, just keep them up-to-date with whatever information you find relevant. Encourage open communication, so you know if they’re still willing to do it. Give their name to your vet for a seamless transition. If you haven’t already, think about getting pet insurance — it’ll take some of the financial stress 💰 off whoever agrees to take over your pet.
What happens if my friends or family can’t take on my pets?
Don’t sweat it — there are organisations that deal with this specific situation 🙌. Animals in Distress UK is an organisation that will rehome your pet in the event of your death. It’s a free service, all you need to do is register with them. They will take care of your pet in the interim while they search for an appropriate home. The RSPCA also has a program called Homes for Life which searches to rehome your pet if they happen to outlive you.
With Bequest, you can write your will online for free, to put your wishes for your pet in. There’s no time like the present, simply create an account and start writing your will today!