Don’t forget to plan for your pet! – Options for caring and providing for your pet in your absence

John de Groot, May 2019

The recent passing of fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld, aged 85, has been remarked upon in the media recently, especially the care arrangements Mr Lagerfeld went to in order to look after his beloved cat, Choupette.  Choupette is rumoured to be the recipient of a generous legacy under Lagerfeld’s estate plan to provide for her future.

In Choupette’s case, it is rumoured that Lagerfeld will have left her caretaker with enough money to keep her in cavier, king crab, smoked salmon and loving care for the rest of her life.

Although this is a more extreme example, as pets are seen as members of the family, many people elect not to leave their future to chance. In seeking to plan their pets future(s), many pet owners may elect one or a number of options to ensure their pet(s) will be loved and looked after.

Options for caring for your pets in these circumstances might include:

  1. Organising to leave a pet with a family member

This ought to be recorded in the testator’s will, which in most cases will likely include a legacy to the family member who is to provide care for the pet, to cover it’s future care arrangements.

However, the risks associated with such a strategy might include family members changing their mind(s) and disclaiming the gift or sending the pet to an animal shelter. In other cases, the family member may simply be no longer in a position to care for the pet. Accordingly, a default position may be prudent, so as to protect against the possibility of your first choice not working out and ensuring your peace of mind.

  1. Pet trusts

Such a trust might be established for the care and maintenance of the pet. However, it should be noted that a pet trust, or any kind or trust for that matter, requires a trustee to administer, and a caregiver for the animal (which may be a separate person).  Accordingly, pet trusts are a more expensive and uncommon option.

  1. Animal welfare organisations

A more common and preferable option in the event that family cannot or potentially will not care for your pet(s), are organisations such as the RSPCA or the Animal welfare league of Australia (and their state/territory branches).

In our experience, it is possible to make arrangements with the RSPCA, whereby a testator will leave a legacy to the RSPCA under his or her will and the RSPCA will promise, through a letter of assurance, to care for the pet.

In our experience, such an arrangement will guarantee that the RSPCA will do all that it can to find a suitable home for the testator’s pet, but will otherwise not euthanise it should such a home not be found, unless for humanitarian reasons.

Another alternative, is to pre-register your pet under the Animal Welfare League’s pet legacy program.

Under the program, in the event that you are no longer able to care for your pet, it will come into the care of the Animal Welfare League, and be placed with a foster carer until a permanent home can be found.  The Animal Welfare League also promises not to euthanise healthy, sociable or treatable animals, and claim to have a perfect record in this regard.

These are just a few of the possible options you may elect to choose when planning for the future of your pet(s), which we can advise you in relation to should you wish to review or undertake your estate planning with us.

Dr. John de Groot

Dr. John de Groot

Legal Practitioner Director and Special Counsel