In 2019, famous fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, best known for his involvement with brands such as Fendi and Chanel, passed away leaving a large sum of money, speculated to be around $1.5 million, to his beloved cat!

This opened a discussion on how pet owners can safeguard family pets and working animals after the owner’s death, and what potential stumbling blocks or misconceptions they may face.

Should you make a provision in your Will for your pet?

Making provision for a family pet in your Will is not about leaving them your possessions, but rather about saying who you would like to care for them after your death.  This requires careful consideration of whether they will be looked after properly by their new owner.

For working animals, you will also need to think about making sure they can continue in their working roles, especially if they are needed for example in a business.

These circumstances both applied in the Karl Lagerfeld case, as not only was his cat a beloved pet, but was also considered a working animal due to her social media presence and following of her own that generated income to add to Karl Lagerfeld’s fortune.

What do you need to think about when you are writing your Will?

When writing your Will there are several factors to consider in relation to any family pets or working animals;

  • Ownership Designation – In UK law, pets are regarded as property and not as individuals in their own right.  This means that unlike humans they cannot directly inherit anything in your Will.  However, specifying a new owner and allocating funds for their care is allowed.  The person you nominate to inherit your pet will need to take on the responsibility of the animal’s welfare as well as the financial obligation.
  • Pet Trusts – These are comprehensive legal arrangements for the care of an animal and can include both family pets and working animals.  In a pet trust you can define the caretakers for your pets, set care instructions, allocate funding to pay for their care, and also include backup plans in case the caretaker you nominate is unable to take on the responsibility.
  • Extravagant funds – if you allocate a lot of money to look after a pet but don’t make reasonable provisions for family members and dependents then your  Will is likely to face legal challenges and may ultimately be amended by the courts.
  • Back-up Strategies – Although a chosen new owner for your pet can be identified in your Will, it is best to have a back-up option in case that person is unable/unwilling to take ownership.
  • Prioritising Animal Welfare – Provisions in your Will which are detrimental to an animal’s health or well-being may not stand up in court.  The pet’s best interests will remain a priority.
  • Keep your wishes up to date – pets don’t usually live as long as humans so it’s important to keep your Will updated if you change your pets and they need different arrangements for their care.

How Backhouse Solicitors can help

Our team of expert Will solicitors provide a fixed fee Will Writing Service, and they can advise on how best to structure your Will in a way that looks after your pets and working animals.  To contact our friendly experts, use the contact information below and book your free 30-minute consultation.

Tel:          01245 893400
Visit:       17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1JU
Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website.