Wills Including Animals

By Stan Taylor Written on:

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Making a Will is not about wealth it is about making sure that what you want to happen to your estate does happen. It gives you the opportunity to specify such things as who will administer your estate, who will care for your children and who will receive specific items of your property.

Those people who do not own or care for animals will never see eye to eye with those who worry about the fate of their animals on their own death.

Further, a testator who leaves everything to his animals or to a cat sanctuary is generally the cause of much fuss in the media. The epitaph `eccentric' is almost certain to creep in somewhere.

The general problem with leaving funds to an animal is that the animal cannot give a receipt to the executors.

As a matter of trust law there is a problem because a trust must have a beneficiary capable of enforcing it. However, the animal lover need not despair because English law has provided an exception to the general rule and a trust for the maintenance of a particular animal for its lifetime is valid. The trust must be limited in time to a period of 21 years so as to avoid falling foul of the rule against perpetuities because an animal cannot be a life in being for the purposes of that rule.

Those who wish to learn more about the technicalities of this point should consult one of the standard websites on trust law. Otherwise it may simply be noted that 21 years from the testator's death should be a sufficient period for the average cat or dog to live out its days in comfort. The keeper of giant tortoises or elephants may need to seek legal assistance with the drafting of a suitable arrangement!

Remember that you will need somewhere for the money to go when the animal dies. Often this will be an animal charity but could be anyone.

For instance, you could leave 90 per cent of your estate to your children with a trust of 10 per cent for your dog and a gift over to your children on his death (i.e. when the dog dies, your children inherit what remains of the trust).

It is important to state that the trust is for the animal's natural life otherwise Twiddles may find himself making a premature visit to the vet's surgery. Euthanasia recommended by a vet to avoid suffering at the end of the animal's life would be permitted though since this may be deemed the end of natural life.

Want to read more about this - Who May Benefit From A Will? - Charities or Who May Benefit From A Will? - Charities And More

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see: Making a will - The Law Society. Please note that will making differs in Scotland and this website currently deals with English laFree Will download


Perhaps you might consider taking legal advice from a solicitor about making a will if any of the following apply to your circumstances:


  1. A number of people could make a claim on your estate when you pass away because they depend on yourself financially
  2. You want to include a trust in your will (perhaps to provide for children, to save tax, or simply protect your assets in some way after you become deceased)
  3. Your physical and permanent home is not in the UK and / or you are not a British citizen
  4. You live here in the UK but you have additional property abroad
  5. You own all or part of a UK business.

see: Making a will - The Law Society. Please note that will making differs in Scotland and this website currently deals with English law.

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