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Your pet and your will

14 Feb 2023

What happens if your pet outlives you?

Our pets have a special place in our hearts, yet many of us don’t consider what might happen to them if they outlive us. 63% of Australian households have a family pet; dogs and cats are the most common household pets in Australia.

You can keep your beloved pet safe and well cared for by taking steps to ensure your wishes for them are included in your will.

Keeping your pet safe

1. Nominate a trusted carer

You can include a provision in your will to leave your pet to a friend or family member to care for after your death. You may also consider leaving a gift of money for your pet. While this nomination is not binding, your friend or family member can use the money to care for your pet.

Ensure that you select someone who would be comfortable with caring for your pet long term and someone your pet would be comfortable with in their new home. It’s generally courteous to discuss this with your nominated carer before preparing your will.

2. Establish a trust

Some people opt to establish a trust for their pet, allowing their pet to live a comfortable life if their pet were to outlive them. Notably, in the world of celebrities, Oprah has reportedly left US$30 million to her pups while Michael Jackson famously left US$1 million for his chimp, Bubbles.

The creation of a trust in your will would name someone to care for your pet (referred to as ‘the trustee’) and allocate funds for this sole purpose. You may also wish to provide further instructions about what happens to any funds that are not spent after the death of your pet.

You should also be aware that there will be ongoing costs and responsibility associated with managing the trust. We recommend that you obtain confirmation from your preferred trustee before seeing a will writer to ensure that the terms of the trust are set out correctly in your will.

3. Rehoming them

If you have concerns about rehoming your pet with family or friends, you can look into rehoming your pet at an animal shelter of your choice. Make enquiries about a ‘pet legacy program’ with your closest animal shelter to find out about the terms and conditions associated with the program. This may involve leaving a bequest to the animal shelter and in return, they will care for your pet by providing him or her with a home.

During a consultative will appointment, your will writer can assist you in selecting the appropriate animal shelter for your pet. State Trustees takes very special care when we have been nominated as the executor of an estate with pets.

Seeking help

Seeking advice from a professional will writer is the best way to ensure that your wishes for your beloved pet are correctly documented. The will writer will ask questions to assess your pet’s needs and canvas future options with you about their welfare.

Questions to consider

  • What is your pet’s expected lifespan?
  • What is the present cost associated with looking after your pet and what are the costs likely to be in the future?
  • Is your pet a purebred prone to certain illnesses or diseases which might be costly to treat?
  • Should you index the costs of pet care to allow for inflation?
  • Who is the best person or family to adopt your pet?
  • Do they have enough time, patience and love to care for your pet?
  • Will you adopt or acquire any other pets in the future?

We also encourage you to openly communicate with friends/relatives if you are intending to nominate them to care for your pet. If you choose to nominate a charity to care for your pet, make contact with the charity to ensure that your wishes can be met.

In addition to our will writing consultations, you can complete your will online in as little as 30 minutes for just $69.

Complete will online


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