It has become increasingly acknowledged that there are enormous benefits to pet ownership, especially for the elderly or those living on their own. Pets help to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase physical activity and social interaction. However, pet ownership also comes with a myriad of responsibilities and as an elderly owner’s health and their ability to care for themselves declines many become concerned about what might happen to their pet when they die.
A Pet Legacy
To alleviate such concerns there are a few different options that can be considered as part of the estate planning process. These can include:
- Organising for a family member or friend to commit to taking over their care which may include leaving some financial assistance to them in a will.
- Setting up a Pet Trust which will require a trustee to administer for the life of the pet. This also needs to be established legally as part of estate planning.
- Registering the pet in one of a few pet legacy programmes run by animal organisations such as the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League. Enrolling a pet into such a programme can alleviate any concerns for a pet’s future as the organisation undertakes to take over the care of the pet or find a foster or permanent home for them when the time arises. Again this needs to be part of an estate plan.
Animal Welfare Organisation Pet Legacies
Even if a friend or family member has indicated they will take care of a pet, sometimes changes or other circumstances arise and this might not work, in which case having a formal arrangement set up with an animal welfare organisation can act as a kind of ‘insurance policy’ and they will be ready to take the pet into care as soon as is necessary.
Generally, it is beloved companion pets such as dogs and cats that become part of such programmes but arrangements can be made for other pets too. These types of Pet Legacy arrangements are easy to set up through Coordinators who provide all the information, guides and documents necessary and once a pet is registered the owner will be supplied with ongoing documents including a wallet card with the information and who to contact when required.
“My decision to register my much loved cat Bondi as part of a pet legacy programme has given me so much peace of mind,”
Seventy-five-year-old Geoff said when he found out about this as an option and put it into action.
Very detailed information about the pet will be gathered to make sure their individual needs can be met when they are taken into care. Charitable animal organisations that offer these programmes also provide other vital services in the community and rely heavily on community donations. Most would not survive without gifts from wills, so even though they don’t charge for the pet legacy programme the organisation will ask participants to leave them a gift in their will.
This (and the amount to be gifted) can be set out in a few ways:
- A percentage gift. You simply state in the will what percentage of the estate you wish to leave.
- A residual gift. After everything else in an estate has been taken care of, including any costs, you simply state that the remainder of the estate or a percentage of it can be provided as a gift
- A specific gift. You can gift a specified amount.
Even the smallest donation can make a difference, so even if an estate is not large, just gifting anything can be used by the organisation in essential community work. A solicitor or the Coordinators of pet legacy programmes can help with the best and most precise wording of gifts like these in a will as it is important that executors or guardians are provided with clear instructions as to the wishes of an owner about their pet’s future.
For more information about registering a pet in one of these pet legacy programmes it is best to contact either the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League in your particular state. In NSW the RSPCA programme is called Home Ever After.
Jenny England is a writer and illustrator living in Kiama, Australia. Over the years she has worked as a journalist and has had numerous non-fiction articles published in a wide variety of magazines. Now retired from the hustle and bustle of daily life she is writing about serious aged care and end of life matters. She also writes speculative fiction when she isn’t busy with her other hobbies: knitting, astrology and mail art.