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Paws For Thought

Don’t leave your pets out of Estate planning!

When it comes to estate planning we talk a lot about PETs, but not often about pets (of the furry, fluffy and feathery variety). Most pet owners will want to ensure that their pets continue to be cared for after their death, so let's look at what we need to consider.

While many animal lovers consider Rover a member of the family rather than a possession, when it comes to succession pets are actually considered a personal chattel. Like any other personal chattel, pets can be specifically gifted in a will.

You should consider who you wish to look after your animals, and whether you ought to make financial provision for the care of the animal.

For example, certain types of parrot have a life expectancy of around 60 years so gifting them to an elderly beneficiary may be unwise.

The upkeep of an animal can be very expensive. This can range from the cost of feeding and grooming up to expensive vet bills and stabling (in the case of horses). This can be off-putting for a potential beneficiary. You may want to consider how to alleviate any financial burden on a beneficiary.

Financial provision could be made by way of a simple gift of money to the beneficiary conditional upon them taking on the care of the animal. You should consider the animals needs and associated upkeep costs when structuring such a gift.

A perhaps lesser known alternative would be to create a special type of trust for the upkeep of the animal. This is known as a 'trust of imperfect obligation' as the object of the trust cannot enforce it (while compelling, Rover's puppy dog eyes won’t help him actually enforce the trust). This type of trust may only last for up to 21 years. A period that should be sufficient for most common household pets.

Whatever option you choose, it’s important to write a letter of wishes to provide their beneficiarywith details on how your pet should be cared for.

This is not financial advise

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