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Will your estate plan take care of your pet?

What happens if your beloved pet outlives you? Many dogs and cats live as long as 20 years and some birds up to 80.

A 2016 report by Animal Medicines Australia estimated that 38 per cent of Australian households own at least one dog. Here at Equity Trustees, one Will we dealt with provisioned $100,000 to the RSPCA to care for a much loved dog which outlived its owner (the owner charged them with responsibility for finding the dog a permanent new home, and all other costs associated with caring for the dog for its natural life).

All pet owners need to think about making provisions in estate plans or wills for the care and ownership of furbabies – for the sake of everyone left behind wondering what you might have wanted.

Stories abound of pets who have been fought over and, at the other end of the spectrum, those who have been abandoned to pet shelters. If your’re lucky (and your wishes have been clear), you will have friends or family who will agree on rehoming the pet and caring for it just as you would have wanted.

Pet Care Plan – Write a detailed list of everything needed to care for your pet. Include registration details, microchip number, veterinary contact details, groomers contact details, dietary restrictions, favourite toys and bedding and even their usual routine. Create an emergency contact list that includes family, friends or neighbours who can quickly reach your pets. Carry a copy on you just in case and inform the executor of your will.

Will – When making your will it is just as important to think about your furbaby – they are dependent on you afterall. Under Australian law  your pet is considered property in your estate. If you do not have a valid will when you die your pet will go to your next of kin. The simplest provision for a pet under a will is to gift a pet to a family member or trusted friend.

Pet Trust – Writing up a pet trust allows you to allocate who you’d like to take over guardianship, how your pet is to be cared for, and how their care is to be funded. A trustee will then distribute the funds to your designated guardian to use as per your instructions. It’s a good idea to discuss your wishes with your nominated friend of relative.

Pet Legacy Program – Your pet can be left in the care of a Pet Legacy Program, such as RSPCA or Lort Smith. Through these organisations, your pet will find a loving home and their ongoing welfare will be monitored by the organisation. You need to register your pet and make a specific monetary bequest in your will for each pet registered, which will go towards their future veterinary care, giving you peace of mind knowing that your pets will be cared for should you pass away before they do.

More information about estate planning and wills can be found here on our website. Or you can call and speak to us about all your estate planning needs, including protection for your beneficiaries and ensuring specific arrangements of how your will and super can work together.

Get your estate plan underway using our online tool, developed on a foundation of 130 years of professional experience helping people like you take care of the future.