LAWYERS ENCOURAGE FAMILIES WITH PETS TO UPDATE THEIR WILLS FOLLOWING SURGE IN OWNERSHIP DURING LOCKDOWN

13 Apr 2021

Published in: Member News

Recent statistics show 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet during lockdown

With recent statistics showing that 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet during lockdown, lawyers are encouraging owners to update their wills to cover the new member of the family.

The surge in pet-owning homes takes the national total to 17 million according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association and lawyers say owners should make sure these animals are provided for after their death.

Private Capital expert Paul Davies from national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP says adding a pet to your will is simple and can save your loved ones from a lot of stress later down the line.

“Everyone knows that a pet is not just for Christmas and it’s not just for lockdown either! Taking ownership of a pet is a big decision and part of that is considering what would happen to your pet when you die,” said Paul.

“A pet can be left under the terms of your will and there are various options available. The most formal is a trust in the owner’s will with trustees given a sum of money to provide for the pet’s care and asked to find a home for them. This needs to be carefully drafted by a legal expert.

“Another option is to give the pet to an individual in the will with a request that they provide a home for the pet. The request would not be legally binding so thought would have to be given as to what happens if the person can’t or won’t look after the pet.

“The least formal option is a letter of wishes accompanying the will setting out how you would like the executors to deal with your pet. This can be updated without changing the will but is not legally binding, although it would have moral force.

“It might also be possible to ask a charity to rehome your pet. For example, the Dogs’ Trust operates a scheme whereby the owner completes a canine care card. Someone is chosen by the owner as the Dog Guardian who can pass over ownership of the dog to the Dogs’ Trust who will then attempt to find a new home.

“One of your executors may be the best choice of Dog Guardian and it would be a good idea to include these instructions in your Will. The owner might like to leave a legacy to the charity re-homing the pet. A similar service for cats is offered by Cats’ Protection and both charities pledge never to put down an animal because a new home can’t be found.”

Clarke Willmott recently developed a free, online tool called ‘Which Will?’ to assist people looking into making or updating a will. The tool prompts the user to think about what is important to them when making a will and recommends which will best meets their needs.

The tool covers all considerations including businesses, homes and children and generates a free report for the user who can then go and seek further legal advice.

Paul continued: “Our Which Will tool is a great place to start when thinking about making a will, we’ve compiled all the information you need in one place, meaning you don’t have to complete numerous internet searches.

“Outside of wills we also provide services for drafting ‘pet-nups’ dealing with what would happen to your pet in the event of the breakdown of a relationship.”

Clarke Willmott is a national law firm with offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.

For more information or to use the free Which Will? Tool visit https://www.clarkewillmott.com/which-will/

Submitted by Karen from Clarke Willmott LLP
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