If I Die, What Will Happen To My Dog? (How To Include A Dog In Your Will)

As a nation of pet lovers, we're known for taking care of our pet's every need as best as we can. From making sure they have the right diet, to giving them mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy and healthy on the inside and out.

We do our best to provide a home where our pets are a key part of our family, but just how much have you prepared for your pet and their needs should you no longer be there to care for them yourself?

Recent research released highlighted that almost half of UK adults do not currently have a will but interestingly of those who have, almost one-third of pet owners have made arrangements for their pets in their wills and it seems pet owners aged 18-24 years old are most likely to plan for their pets in their will, with almost three quarters saying they have made arrangements and over half saying they would designate a guardian to look after their pets.

If I Die, What Will Happen To My Dog? (How To Include A Dog In Your Will)

James Antoniou is an expert in wills at a leading UK legal firm. James has got some top tips for K9 Magazine readers on why it is so important to create a will setting out wishes as to how individuals would like their estate to be distributed, in the event of their death as well as the key things that need to be considered if you want to make sure your dog will be cared for if you are no longer alive.

How to include a dog in your last will and testament

For many pet owners, this includes ensuring their animals continue to be cared for and provided for in the right way and by the right person or charity.

The importance of having a will

In order to ensure that a person’s wishes are clear, it is vital that an effective will is in place.

A will can provide clarity on a whole range of practical matters such as, if the person has children or pets, it can include their intention as to who should look after them, which can be agreed beforehand with any individuals nominated.

It can also include trusts designed for family wealth preservation, for example, against residential care or inheritance tax planning.

Trusted individuals can also be nominated in a will to handle the administrative side of dealing with property and possessions, such as beloved pets, after your death as well as managing any ongoing trusts to ensure that family and future generations are protected.

If I Die, What Will Happen To My Dog? (How To Include A Dog In Your Will)

If a person dies intestate (without leaving an effective will), they lose control over what happens to their estate meaning that their final wishes about what happens to their savings, assets and investments may not be met.

Making financial provisions for your dog through your will

Making financial provisions through your will so that necessary funds are available for the pet’s upkeep and to help with associated expenses so the new carer is not left out of pocket is perfectly normal.

Many dog owners feel that including these types of provisions in their will is all part of responsible pet ownership.

Dogs and wills: some interesting statistics

In addition to the third of pet owners who have made arrangements for their pets in their wills,

  • almost one fifth would leave money to a benefactor to ensure their pet(s) continue to be looked after
  • almost one third again are providing up to £900
  • 1% of pet owners spoken to claim to be leaving over £100,000 to ensure their loved ones are well looked after in the event of their death.

Step by step guide to including a dog in your will

To help you prepare and plan how much you may wish to include as a financial provision, perhaps consider the age of your pet and their needs.

You may also wish to detail monthly expenses giving you a rough idea of outgoing costs – those little treats can mount up and as with everything, we might not always think about everything we buy.

If I Die, What Will Happen To My Dog? (How To Include A Dog In Your Will)

Also, if you have spoken with the person who you've chosen to care for your pet, perhaps speak about this with them so they know what you're hoping to leave to contribute towards your pet's upkeep. It may be their input is invaluable and will help to eliminate any worries for everyone involved.

James Antoniou says:

We would always recommend having a professionally drafted will in place by a reputable and regulated legal organisation.

This is to ensure that an individual’s options have been clearly explained to them and they can receive comprehensive advice alongside other options such as free storage of your original will which is a benefit we offer at Co-operative Legal Services.

When creating a will, it is essential that whoever drafts it has a clear understanding of what is needed in order for it to be effective.

For example; a will must be signed in a particular way, the wording used should be clear and legally effective to avoid any ambiguity, as this could cause complications and additional expense after a person has died.

My advice would be to check that the provider is regulated.

Other things to consider when creating a will

  • If a person has remarried since making a will then depending on the wording of the Will, the marriage may have revoked the will.
  • Without a valid will in place, if the person was to die, they would be classed as dying intestate and the rules of intestacy would apply.
  • If a couple gets divorced or a civil partnership is dissolved and the estate had been left entirely to the spouse or civil partner, the provisions of your will may become ineffective.
  • If the main beneficiary in a will dies before the person whose will it is and there isn’t substitute provision is in place, the majority of the person’s estate might pass on intestacy to those who it may not have been intended for.
  • If a will has been made but hasn’t been signed, it is unlikely to be valid.
  • If the signing of a will hasn’t been witnessed properly, it is unlikely to be valid.
  • If there are handwritten amendments, they could potentially affect the validity of some of the provisions in the will.
  • Where there is ambiguity in the wording of the will, this may cause some of the provisions in the will to be ineffective.

Making sure your dog will be properly cared for when you can't be here will give you peace of mind knowing you've done all you can.

Lead author

James Antoniou is Head of Wills at Co-operative Legal Services.


If I Die, What Will Happen To My Dog? (How To Include A Dog In Your Will)

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