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  • Kirtan Swamy

HOW TO: Considering pets after death

Pets have become increasingly popular in families. Many pet owners feel that their pet is part of their family. Having a pet is a big responsibility that takes time and money. A lot is invested in its care and maintenance. This might include microchipping, vaccinations, de-sexing, vet expenses, council registration, exercising, pet insurance, cleaning, grooming, feeding, and the list goes on.


So, naturally, the question arises: who will take on this responsibility after you pass away? 


Can a pet be a beneficiary? 

beneficiary is a person or entity entitled to receive a benefit or gift after a person dies. While your pet might be part of your family, in the eyes of the law, a pet is seen as “chattel” or “property”. Therefore, pets cannot be named as a beneficiary in your Will. 


If you decide to list a pet as a beneficiary, the gift will fail. But there are ways to plan and ensure your pet is properly looked after and your wishes are fulfilled. 


Gifting your pet 

You can gift your pet and entrust their care to someone in your Will. When picking a person, it is important to consider who would be able and willing to take on the responsibility and is likely to fulfil your wishes. Furthermore, you may wish to set aside some funds to assist with the general pet expenses. 


Create a trust 

You can set up a trust in your Will for the care and maintenance of your pet. This is known as a testamentary trust. A dedicated fund is set aside for the sole purpose of caring for and maintaining your pet. This process requires that a trustee be nominated. They will hold the money in trust and only use the funds to look after your pet.  


This can be a complicated process, and it is often best to consult a legal professional to ensure it has been established up correctly. 


Re-home your pet

You can make a provision in your Will to re-home your pet. Re-homing allows your pet to find a suitable home and ensures that someone else who wants to have a pet may be able to look after it. Many organisations in Victoria can assist with this process. 


What happens if I do not make any provisions in my Will for my pets? 

 Your pet will form part of your residuary estate and pass to your beneficiaries. As no provisions are made for them, there are no guarantees that your pet will be looked after as you would have wished.


What happens if I die without a will?

If you die without a valid Will, your pet may pass to your next of kin on the basis set out in the intestacy laws of Victoria. As no provisions are made for them, there are no guarantees that your pet will be looked after as you would have wished.  


Make a how to look after your pet guide.

 From a practical standpoint, writing a “how to” guide on looking after your pet would be helpful. In this guide, it would be helpful to write down what vaccinations they have had, details of their vet, their routine, and what they eat. This would be a starting point. Usually, the more detail you provide, the better and easier it will be for someone else to look after your pet and for your pet to be re-homed. 


The information provided in this article is general advice only. Given that each situation is unique, we recommend that you contact our wills and estate planning team if you would like to create a testamentary trust or discuss how you can best look after your pet after you pass away. Our team can be contacted on (03) 9311 8911.


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