Pet lovers have learned to appreciate the companionship of animals more than ever before over the last year, but many fail to consider how they might be looked after when an owner dies.
There has been a surge in demand for pets during the pandemic with 12million families – 41 per cent of homes – now owning a dog, cat or other animal. Yet less than half of households make any provision for their pets for when they might not be able to look after them.
By taking a few simple steps, it is possible to ensure a pet’s devotion is properly rewarded and is well cared for long after you are gone. First, consider who you would like to look after your pet should you pass away before they do. If you have a partner, family or close friend willing to take the animal, it may not be necessary to put your wishes down in a legal document. However, you should still discuss practicalities with them and make it official in your will if you wish.
Planning ahead: It is possible to ensure a pet’s devotion is properly rewarded and is well cared for long after you are gone
James Antoniou, senior solicitor at Co-op Legal Services, says: ‘Have a talk with the person you want to gift your pet to, allowing them the opportunity to make clear if they do not want this major responsibility.’
He adds that if you write your wishes in your will, you may want to consider naming a substitute beneficiary if the first is unable to step in. You might also want to leave them a cash gift to help pay for your pet’s upkeep.
According to animal charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, the price of looking after a dog – food, insurance and vet bills – can be as much as £2,000 a year.
So consider leaving a few thousand pounds for their upkeep if possible. If you cannot find a suitable family or friend to rehome your pet, you could consider choosing a specialist charity. Contact the charity first before writing it into your will.
The Cinnamon Trust charity offers to rehome a cherished pet, giving it a loving new owner.
The charity can also provide help if you are struggling with health issues or are terminally ill – with 20,000 volunteers nationwide offering practical assistance, such as offering to regularly walk a dog. Averil Jarvis, charity founder and chief executive, says: ‘It can be horrendous if you do not have specific plans for a pet once you die and fail to put your wishes down on paper.
‘A word-of-mouth request is not enough. I have seen how a verbal request was not followed up and led to the untimely death of a dog against an owner’s wish.’
Jarvis adds: ‘We are a charity but you do not need to leave us money with your animal. Our concern is to honour a promise to look after the pet.’ Other charities can also provide assistance for pets. These include the Dogs Trust and Cats Protection. Another to consider is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has a ‘home for life’ scheme that can also help to rehouse pets.
Jane Tyson, scientific officer at the RSPCA, says: ‘Looking after a pet means caring for life – and this includes making plans for them in the event of your own death.
‘You can register your pet on our ‘home for life’ scheme for free. We will work hard to make sure we find the right owner when the time comes and are always on hand to offer advice and support.’
A last will and testament kit can be purchased for as little as £20. These DIY options may be suitable if you have a straightforward estate to sort out – and can also include provision for pets.
Yet if you are willing to shell out more and speak to a solicitor – costing £250 or £400 for a joint will – you can be assured that all the issues will be dealt with professionally and exactly how you would have wanted.
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