According to a nationwide study conducted by Animal Medicines Australia, nearly 70% of Australian households own one or more pets. As most pet owners consider their animals to be members of their family, it is not unexpected that more and more people are beginning to think about the ways in which they can make sure that their dependable dog, adorable cat, or cherished horse are accounted for in their Wills.
You may be aware of instances where wealthy people have left millions of dollars to their pets. For example, Karl Lagerfeld, the German fashion designer, left part of his $300 million fortune to his beloved cat and a 94 year old wealthy Italian woman left her entire $15.6 million estate to her cat. However, Australian law does not recognise pets as legal entities that can inherit property or assets.
What does this mean? This means that our furry companions cannot directly inherit our possessions. In Australia, pets, much like houses or a cars, are considered to be property therefore they cannot inherit directly in your will. So how can I ensure that my pet will be taken care of when I pass away?
One method for addressing what happens to our pets when we pass away is to have some discussions with family or friends to find out who wants to take care of them and who does not. A more formal way to guarantee that your pets will be cared for after your passing is to include them in your Will. This may be done by inserting a clause in your Will that specifies who will look after your pet and leaving that person with enough money to cover the cost of caring for that pet in accordance with your wishes. This means that, while pets cannot inherit money or property directly under NSW law, a caretaker may hold the funds for the pet in a “pet trust” instead. Organisations such as the Animal Welfare League also have a service where they care for a pet after the owner’s death.
When deciding how your estate will be handled, it is a good idea to consider what your wishes are for the care of your pets to make sure that they will be taken care of as you planned in the event that you pass away before they do. This is where an experienced Wills & Estates Solicitor can assist you by advising you on the best way to ensure your pet’s future care is as secure as possible.