As many other dog owners will no doubt agree, dogs are part of the family. Our fur babies rely on us, their owners, for their ongoing care and all the expenses that come along with that including accommodation, food, medical supplies and the like. So when it comes time to plan how one’s estate will be distributed in the event of their death, it’s perfectly reasonable to consider little Fido’s (or Pearl’s, or Hazel’s) ongoing needs and wish to provide for them in your will. This article will explore whether it is possible to leave property to a pet (or pets) in a will.

Pets in Wills

Before you start incorporating clauses into your will whereby little Fido (or Pearl, or Hazel) become the legal owner of your home after your passing, the legalities need to be considered. At law, pets are considered property. Like any other asset, they can be left in a will or divided in a family law settlement. And that classification as property, in effect, means they can’t own property in their name. That is, property cannot own property. The register of titles simply cannot provide for anyone other than a ‘person’ at law (which includes a company) to be the registered proprietor of property. Sorry Fido.

Establishing a Trust for Your Pets

The better method of ensuring your little pooches ongoing care is to establish a trust (within the operative provisions of the will itself) which notes the intention of the trust property to be applied to the benefit of the named dogs (or any pet you may own in the event of your death). It’s important to note, in most cases, the trustee of said trust does not have to, as a matter of law, adhere to such direction. The trustee is the legal owner of the property on trust for the trust and ultimately controls how the property is applied. So in creating the operative provisions for the testamentary trust, the trustee should be someone you trust (and, for obvious reasons, a dog lover).

Another option to consider is making a charitable or gratuitous donation to a pet based charity as part of your will (that way, many little fido’s or Pearls or Hazels are helped) and declaring your intention that ownership of your best mate pass to a particular organisation, whom you trust to rehome properly.

If you are looking to establish a trust for your pets, get in touch with LegalVision’s lawyers.

Emma Jervis
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