Pets and Gifts in Wills.

Photo credit: Bruno Cervera

So: you own a pet.

What happens to your pet when you die?

Well: hopefully he or she will live a long and happy life when you’ve gone.  Read on to see how you can make the best arrangements for him or her when you aren’t around. 

If you make no other arrangements and don’t put anything in your will the following three things could happen:

(1) if you own the pet with someone else (spouse/ partner/ housemate) then they may carry on caring once you’re gone.  

(2) a friend or family member may volunteer and your executors might agree.

(3) there are lots of organisations that find loving homes for your animal companions when you’re no longer able to however, many of these organisations won’t look after an animal forever.  Many animals are euphemistically “destroyed” if they cannot be rehomed.

Rather than leaving it to chance, why not create some certainty?  Animals can be “gifted” in your will.  If you know someone who would be able and willing to look after your pet once you’ve died why not have a word with them now and ask if it’s okay for you to make it a formal arrangement?  You can make a will in a few minutes and specify where you want your four legged (/flippered/ winged) companion to live when you die.

You could also specify what animal shelter you want your animal passed to if your friend for whatever reason can’t do it (e.g. they move, die before you, or are otherwise incapacitated). 

In either case you may wish to provide a cash gift that follows your companion animal to cover vet bills, food costs and other out of pocket expenses.  This can be made conditional on your friend/ charitable organisation accepting the animal.  You will have the peace of mind that (a) you have control over the fate of your pet and (b) the person or organisation looking after your pet won’t be burdened by doing right by your pet.

If you do have gifts of pets in your will you should ensure that your wishes are up to date.  Each time you get a new pet you should provide as much information about it as possible including name/ species and breed/ unique identifying features and if you have it to hand: microchip information.  With our Lifetime Updates subscription you can update your will up to five times per year for just £10.  

As a final thought: did you know that you can leave gifts in your will to your favourite charities?  This can be to animal shelters to ensure that other animals don’t need to be destroyed before their time, or to any other charity you like – be they environmental, care, medical research etc.  You can find a list of all charities in England and Wales through the Charity Commission website here: