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Estate planning: How can I keep my pets safe after my death?

7th February 2014 - Christopher Hall
Estate planning: How can I keep my pets safe after my death?

If you have beloved pets it is hard enough to keep them safe and well while you are alive, but what happens after you are dead?

You cannot simply leave your home to your cats to live in for as long they live. Unfortunately the law does not recognise pets as having their own legal personality, so you must find a trustworthy Edgar (for those of us with fond memories of the Aristocats) to look after your pets after you are gone. This means that you can leave assets either on trust, or make a donation to your favourite charity, on the understanding that they will look after your cats, dogs or other animal.

The law allows you to set up a trust for animals, as long as the trust is deemed to be in the public good, and the animals you intend to benefit under the trust are not just your individual one or two pets. Such a trust will also have tax advantages, as it will be a charitable trust.

You can contact a charity to arrange that it will look after your pets after you are gone, in exchange for a legacy under your will. This is not a formal contract, but simply an understanding - so you need to trust the charity. You must leave it up to the discretion of the charity as to how they look after your pets, but you can request that they stay in your home if this is feasible. However the charity will have to employ people to stay at the property, which can be very expensive.

If you want to be sure that your wishes for your pets are carried out, the best way is to leave detailed instructions under your will. You need to appoint Executors whom you trust to carry out these instructions.

If Edgar had stopped to consider the effect of his mistresss provision for her aristocats under her will, he would have realised that they would need to be kept in the style to which they had become accustomed - and that this would include him. He would have been quite comfortable as the warden of the château!

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