I am often asked this question when carrying out estate planning for my clients. The fact of the matter is, unless you provide for what is to happen to your pets in your will, then it will be up to the executor of your will to decide. That could have consequences that you may not be happy with for your beloved furry friends.
If you put those instructions of what you wish to happen in your will, then it is legally binding. Some clients of mine have wished for particular family members to have care of certain pets. Further, some wish to provide a token gift for the caregiver taking on this responsibility. That could be a certain sum of money, a percentage of your estate, or a gift in your will.
Some clients wish to create a trust in their will for the care and costs associated with looking after animals. To create a trust in your will is reasonably straightforward, but needs to be drafted pursuant to the Trusts Act Qld to be valid.
A trust for your pet will allow funds from your estate to be used for the benefit of your pets, and then once your pet is with you in heaven, the trust is wound up and remaining funds are paid out to the beneficiaries (or whoever you want to receive those monies).
A trust will provide you the maximum assurance that your pet is cared for in accordance with your wishes. It may be prudent to give any potential caregiver of the pets prior notice of your intent. This will allow you both peace of mind so that the appropriate steps will be taken to look after your beloved animals.
You may wish to leave instructions regarding the types of food, choice of vets and likes of your furry animals for the Guardian to have consideration and understanding of what is required. It may be unsettling for some people to have to consider the unexpected, but this event could occur at any time and you should factor in the unexpected.
The most common comments made to me by clients when I have done their wills, is the peace of mind they have once it is done and how easy the process was as opposed to how they thought it would be. That makes me feel great. And in doing so, all matters are taken care of for them.
This column is not legal advice as it does not take into consideration your individual facts and you ought seek independent legal advice.