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Are pet beneficiaries on the rise?

The owner of a beloved dog known as Lulu has left a jaw dropping sum of £3.6 million in trust for the dog’s benefit. The sum has been set aside to provide for Lulu’s care. She is currently residing with her late owner’s friend, who will be reimbursed for the monthly expenses she incurs for caring for Lulu.

To some people this story may sound surprising but this isn’t the first pet which has benefitted from a large percentage of their owner’s estate on their passing.

The fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld, included terms in his will which stated that his beloved cat Choupette, a social media sensation, would be entitled to a sum of £153 million from his estate. This was to ensure that his feline friend was properly provided for after his passing.

Alexander McQueen also set aside a lump sum of £50,000 to ensure that his dogs could be pampered after his death.

Estate planning

Under UK law it is not possible to leave money directly to your pet; however, it is possible to make provision for your pets when you are estate planning.

There are a number of ways you do this. A few popular examples include:

  1. Gifting a sum of money to a particular person who has agreed to provide care for your pet following your death; or
  2. Creating a trust in favour of your pet. This would mean that the money would be held for your pet’s benefit and the trustees (who you would appoint) would decide how to use the funds to provide care for your pet after your death.

An estimated 12 million households in the UK have pets. There may therefore be a rise in the number of people who make provision for their pets in their will.

Tips for including pets in your will:
1. Ensure that you name an emergency caregiver

By naming an emergency contact this will assist your executors with placing your pets with someone as a matter of priority. You should include instructions as to how your pets should be cared for (i.e. their feeding schedule, which food they typically enjoy, how many walks they require each day, whether they need to take any form of medication etc).

2. Ensure the person named as the long-term caregiver is suitable

If you do not have someone who is willing or able to take ownership of your pets, it may be worth considering whether a charity would be a suitable option. A number of charities operate schemes by which they will assume responsibility for your pets after your passing.

Popular schemes operating in the United Kingdom include:

You may also wish to consider leaving a legacy in your will to assist your chosen charity with their work.

There are many types of legacies that you can leave in your will. These include residuary gifts (i.e. a gift of all or part of your estate after the payment of debts, liabilities and other legacies), a pecuniary gift (i.e. a gift of a particular sum of money) or a specific legacy (i.e. a gift which specifies a particular item such as a property or a piece of jewellery).

3. Calculate an appropriate amount to set aside

You should consider how much would be necessary to look after your pets following your death. Each pet will have different needs and the amount spent on pets will no doubt vary from owner to owner.

When deciding on a figure to set aside in your will, you should take into account the age of your pet, any medical conditions they have and how much you spend on their care on average each year. There is no recommended figure and it is the sole decision for the owner to make.

If you would like assistance with making a new will or would like to discuss your options for ensuring that your pets are well cared for following your death, please contact our Wealth and Estate Planning team via email or alternatively by calling 020 7288 4760.

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