Pets and Wills

The first question that is always asked is “Can I provide for my pet in my Will?”  The answer is yes you can.  There are several things you can do to ensure that your pet is provided for after you die.  Take time to consider which option best suits your pet.  Then make an appointment to come in and see us.  It is important to have your Will professionally drafted so that it is valid and its terms are carried out according to your wishes.

In order to prepare a Will making provision for a pet it pays to consult an expert.  In almost 100 years of writing Wills, NSW Trustee & Guardian has written over 900,000 Wills including quite a number that
include animals.  

Ruth Pollard, Assistant Director, Legal Services at NSW Trustee & Guardian has compiled some tips on how you include your pet in your estate planning, and what you need to consider:

  • Firstly, think about all the options available and which would suit your needs for your pet best. For example, you could consider setting up a trust for the care and maintenance of your pet, a pet legacy programme to an animal charity; or make a legacy to friend or family member with a non-binding request they look after your pet; or euthanasia.
  • Setting up a testamentary trust for the care and maintenance of pets is becoming more popular but there are a few important legal and financial things to note: 
     - Under Australian law domestic pets are considered to be property; and
     - There is a principle of law that says a non-charitable trust must have humans as beneficiaries otherwise if the executor or trustee is not prepared to enforce the trust it will not be upheld by the Courts.
  • People who wish to set up trusts for individual animals must find a trustworthy and dependable executor/trustee who is prepared to uphold the terms of the trust.  This is where a professional trustee organisation such as NSW Trustee and Guardian can help.
  • If you do set up a trust - the perpetuity period - that is the term within which the trust must be wound up is 80 years, which is fine if your pet is a cat or dog, but perhaps not so good if you own an animal with a long lifespan like a bird or a tortoise.
  • You must appoint a person or an organisation to provide the physical day to daycare and maintenance of your pet so you need to carefully consider your choice of  carer/guardian.  Before making the Will obtain the consent of the person or persons you wish to appoint as carer.  Will this person or persons provide the care and relationship you want to provide for your pet?  Also, consider whether you need to include a substitute carer if the person nominated dies before you or dies during the lifetime of the pet.
  • NSW Trustee & Guardian has established a practice to check that the carer is genuinely looking after the pet by ensuring there are regularly check ups by the vet and reports provided to them.
  • Make sure you leave written details about the pet and veterinary documents to be placed with your Will so that the executor or trustee has all the necessary information about the pet’s needs.
  • Ensure there are sufficient funds for the trust to last the pet’s lifetime. You may need to consider factors like the pet’s life expectancy; standard of living e.g. is the pet to be cared for by the guardian indoors/outdoors, accommodation, are they to go on holidays with the guardian or boarded; food; toys; grooming; vet costs; costs of medical treatment, allowing for any special treatment particularly as pet gets older; funding for guardian; pet insurance and costs associated with the burial or cremation of pet on death.

    You can access more information by downloading  What about me? Your pets & your Will.