It's National Love Your Pet Day and what better way to celebrate than by making sure your pets will be cared for if you're no longer around or are too incapacitated to look after them yourself. A major reason for making your Will or Lasting Power of Attorney is to look after your family and just like any other much-loved member of the family we need to make sure our pets are cared for too.
We've all seen the movies or heard the stories about wealthy individuals leaving huge fortunes to their favourite pet but actually in reality this isn't possible. Legally, a pet is not a person and so in legal terms, a domestic animal is classed as a ‘chattel’ or possession which means you cannot leave assets to it.
But there are things you can do to make sure your pet is taken care of:
Make Provision in Your Will
You can make special provisions in your Will for your pets. This means that your executors can take immediate responsibility of them when you die and follow your wishes with regards to their welfare. This may be gifting your pet to a relative or re-homing your pet for example. It is also possible to include a sum of money for that person to pay for the pet's upkeep but it is important to know that the money belongs to that person and not to your pet and there is nothing in law which can prevent someone from taking the money and re-homing your pet. A safer and more preferred option might be to set up a pet trust instead.
Set up a pet trust
As we've explained, your pet is considered as being a possession and so it can not be a beneficiary of your Will or in a Trust, however, you can set up a trust either during your lifetime or in your Will which permits the trustees to use the trust money or other assets to pay for the care of your pet. You will need to name beneficiaries who will ultimately inherit after your pet has died. This is known as a Purpose Trust.
Purpose Trusts, unless charitable in nature, contravene the beneficiary principal and must be carefully worded to avoid being held invalid. Trusts for the maintenance of animals have been held as valid trusts of imperfect obligation. Examples of these are Pettingall v Pettingall  11 LJ Ch 179 and Re Dean  41 ChD 552. Due to the complex nature and the potential for such a trust to fail, professional advice is always needed if you want to create this type of trust.