What Happens to your Pet if you Pass Away

In a comprehensive study by Animal Medicines Australia, it was found that nearly 70% of Australian households are pet owners, with many considering their pet a beloved family member. This growing trend has led to an increased number of individuals contemplating how to include their faithful dog, affectionate cat, or valued horse in their will, ensuring these cherished family members are well provided for.

Notable cases, such as Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic German fashion designer, bequeathing a portion of his $300 million estate to his cherished cat, and a wealthy Italian leaving her $15.6 million fortune to her feline companion, highlight the lengths to which some will go to treat their pet as a relative or next of kin. Despite these instances, Australian legislation does not recognise pets as legal entities capable of inheriting assets or property in a will.

This legal stance means that our beloved pets cannot directly inherit our assets. In Australia, pets are classified as property, similar to real estate or vehicles, and hence cannot be direct beneficiaries in a will. To ensure your pet receives proper pet care after your departure, you might consider appointing a trusted person in your will to take on this responsibility.

To address the future of our pets posthumously, one approach is to engage in conversations with family or friends to determine a willing guardian for your pet. A more formal solution is to establish a pet trust within your will, designating a friend or organisation to care for your pet and providing them with sufficient funds to fulfill your careplan. While pets cannot directly inherit under NSW law, a designated caretaker can manage the finances for your pet’s needs through a ‘pet trust’. Services like those offered by the Animal Welfare League also ensure continued care for pets after their owner’s demise.

When planning the distribution of your estate, it’s prudent to consider a care plan for your pets, ensuring they are looked after in accordance with your wishes should you pass away before them. Consulting with a skilled Wills & Estates Solicitor can be invaluable in securing your pet’s future care, including options like pet insurance and appointing a trusted person to oversee their well-being.