What will happen to my pets when I am gone?
Death is a sensitive topic that many of us do not like to think about, especially for those under the age of 65. Unfortunately, the reality is that death can happen to anyone at any time. Although people in their 20s, 30s and even 40s and 50s may feel that it is too soon to start planning their estate, it is never too early to prepare a Will, should tragedy strike.
Wills are often associated with division of property, naming an executor, and assigning trustees who will manage your assets. As the current law states, pets are considered personal property and as such, it is good practice to ensure your pets are well looked after by including them in your Will. We all want the very best for our beloved pets and making sure that you outline clear instructions regarding their care is a great way to give you peace of mind. They are members of your family, after all.
Leaving your pets out of your Will means that they may end up in a shelter; it is not safe to assume that a relative or friend will take them into their care without a formal agreement. Even if informal verbal arrangements are made, there is a high likelihood that messages can get crossed and details forgotten. Therefore, it is best to work with a legal professional when you are ready to write your Will.
A pet trust can be set up for your pets’ guardian(s). The sum of money in this trust will be provided to the named guardian(s) of your pets. Because pets are considered property in Canada, you cannot leave a piece of your estate directly to your pets. In order to set up a pet trust, you must first select a caregiver (choosing an alternate caregiver is also recommended in case the primary caregiver becomes unable or unwilling). Have an open, candid conversation with your pets’ potential caregiver by outlining expectations and the amount of responsibility it takes to care for your pets. Choose someone you trust as they will be the person making all the decisions for your pets once you are gone. The amount of money you leave in this trust is truly a personal decision. Some leave a fixed amount, while others calculate the annual cost of care and multiply that by the number of years they expect the pets to live.
It may seem less complicated to simply leave a sum of money in the guardian’s name and forego a pet trust. If you choose to do so, you run the risk of having that allocated money spent on expenses that are unrelated to your pets. In either case, it is important that you and your pets’ guardian share a mutual interest in providing the very best care to your pets.
Anna Schuett is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator for the Georgian Triangle Humane Society. She has three cats – Abbey, Ozzie & Roxy – who bring her immeasurable joy.