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How to provide for a family pet after your death- Estate Planning

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The thought of leaving an entire estate to the loyal family pet can cross one’s mind, particularly when your loved ones are fighting or being difficult.

However, when push comes to shove, many only provide for their two-legged family. This can lead to disputes regarding who keeps your pet or can result in your pet being surrendered to a pound. 

So, how can you ensure you adequately plan and provide for you pet after your death? And, is it even legally possible to leave your estate the dog?

In Australia, pets (whether it be a cat, dog or bird) are legally considered property. This means a pet cannot be gifted money directly. Instead, a pet may be gifted to a relative or friend.  

 

There are four options available in terms of estate planning for pets:

  1. You can create a pet maintenance trust. The trustee is responsible for administering money for the care and maintenance of your pets. Once your pet dies, the trust will be wound up and distributed according to your directions. It is essential that the trustee you select will carry out your wishes in managing the trust, as trustees are not required to carry out the terms of the trust. It is also important to note, running a trust can be expensive.

 

  1. You can gift your pet to a relative or friend under your will. This gift is usually accompanied by a sum of money for the pet’s maintenance and care. Importantly, this type of gift is not binding, meaning your relative or friend could refuse to take your pet. To prevent this from occurring, you should confirm your planned person is happy to take care of your pet.

 

  1. You can leave your pet to an animal charity, pet legacy program. For example, the  RSPCA has a “Home Ever After” program where, in the event of your death or incapacity, the RSPCA will care for and re-home your pet. To apply for the program you will need to complete an online registration form, register each pet, include a clause in your will that directs RSPCA to care for and rehome your animals, and include a clause in your will that gifts money to RSPCA. These programs are perfect if you don’t have family members or friends that are prepared to take on your pet. Visit https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/how-you-can-help/leave-a-gift-in-your-will for more information.

 

  1. The last option is euthanasia. In Australia, it is permissible for a will to contain a clause directing pets to be euthanised. This can be suitable for individuals who don’t want their pets to go through the stress of being re-homed perhaps due to their age or personality. The executor will be responsible for arranging this, therefore you should discuss your wishes with your executor to ensure they agree and will carry out this request.

 

But what happens if you pass suddenly? Who will care for your pet before any of the above options are finalised?

 

The Animal Welfare League Queensland recommends owners take the following steps to prevent pets from being overlooked when an owner dies: 

  1. Nominate two relatives to be emergency caregivers for your pets, provide them with keys to your home and instructions on your pet’s needs.

 

  1. Ensure your relatives, friends and neighbours are aware of how many pets you own and know your emergency caregiver.
     
  2. Carry a Pet Emergency Card in your wallet to alert emergency workers you have pets at home.
     
  3. Display stickers on your door which state the number of pets you own for emergency workers.
     
  4. Place your emergency caregivers’ details in a highly-visible area of your home.

 

 

For more information visit https://www.awlqld.com.au/

 

Do you need to plan for your pets after your death? Contact us today to discuss. Bennett Carroll Solicitors have offices located in Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Freecall: 1300 334 566

Fax: (07) 3343 8664

Email: info@bcglaw.com.au

Website: www.bcglaw.com.au

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