Planning For The Care Of Your Pet After You Pass Away

Written on behalf of Arbesman Hamilton LLP

There are plenty of things people may not automatically think of when planning for the future of their loved ones upon their death. Items such as savings accounts, houses, and businesses are some of the first things people might consider when making a will. But some questions, such as what happens to your pets upon your death, may not be obvious to ask. In the past we’ve written about how pets are handled in a divorce, but we haven’t addressed pets and estate planning.

Pets as personal property

Pet owners often develop close relationships with their pets, which might make the idea of pets as personal property a little strange to consider. That said, pets do qualify as property under law. That means they can be gifted to people in your will. This is the simplest way to ensure your furry (or scaled) friends are cared for after you pass. Of course, you wouldn’t want the gift of a pet to be a surprise to their new owner. We advise getting approval from the person you wish to gift your pets to. You may also want to consider leaving that person a cash gift in your will in order to cover the costs associated with pet care. Your will can stipulate that the person cannot accept the cash gift without also accepting ownership of the pet. Finally, your will cannot provide for what would happen to your pet or the money you gift the guardian of your pet should that person die while the pet is still alive.

Trusts

A more formal option could be to establish a trust to ensure the care of your pet. Since pets are considered personal property, they can’t be addressed via a trust the same way you would a child or other relative. Instead, one idea floated in Canadian common law is the use of a purpose trust. A purpose trust is a trust with no beneficiaries. Instead, they are used to advance non-charitable purposes. There are some considerations to keep in mind, though. Some jurisdictions having set limits for how long these trusts can exist. If your pet lives longer than this period, the trust may no longer apply. Another wrinkle is that trusts of this type do not provide the opportunity to name someone to enforce the trust.

Working outside of the law

Another option would be to work with an organization to ensure for the care of your pet. Some branches of the SPCA, including the one in British Columbia, allow pet owners to enroll in a program that will see the SPCA take in a pet and assist in looking for a new owner for the pet after you pass away.

At Arbesman Hamilton LLP we have experience in working with clients with a wide range of estate planning needs. We are committed to crafting personalized, effective solutions for our clients that reflect their unique circumstances and objectives. We work with our clients to help them define and achieve their goals, even as those goals and needs change over time. We also work with our clients’ accountants to help minimize any tax obligations and always aim to minimize future litigation amongst heirs. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation for your estate needs today.