Estate Planning for your Pets

Written by Cate Bunio, an Associate at Wills, Estates & Trust team at Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang

One of the main purposes of estate planning is to make sure your family is taken care of if something happens to you. If your family includes any furry, scaly or feathery loved ones (also known as pets), you may be wondering how best to incorporate them into your planning.  

While you cannot gift property directly to your pet in your Will under BC law, there are estate planning strategies that can be used to ensure that your pet is cared for in accordance with your wishes after you die. For example, you could leave your pet to a trusted friend or family member in your Will. If so, you might want to consider making a cash gift to the same friend or family member in your Will to help them cover any future costs associated with caring for your pet. You could also leave a supplemental letter for that friend or family member expressing your wishes for the pet’s care after your death.

If you have more than one pet, think about whether it is important to you that those pets be kept together after your death. Should they be left to the same friend or family member? Could that person handle the care of more than one pet, in terms of both cost and energy? Does that person already have pets of their own, and would more than one additional pet be too many for them?

If you can’t think of a friend or family member who would be well-suited and available to care for your pet when you pass on, you could instead direct in your Will that your pet be given to a charity that cares for orphaned animals. One example is the BC SPCA’s Pet Survivor Care Program. The mission of the Program is to “care for and shelter your pet and find them a new loving, forever home” if you become sick or die.

A more complex estate planning strategy for pets is to set up a “purpose trust” in your Will that directs the trustee to pay out funds for the benefit of your pet for the pet’s lifetime (subject to certain restrictions). Trust planning for pets is a highly complex area of law, however, and should only be undertaken with appropriate care and legal advice.

The care and well-being of our pets when we are no longer around can be a difficult decision to make. As you can see in the above picture, the furry loved ones of our team members are near and dear to our heart!  Please reach out to us if you would like to further discuss your estate plans and we would be happy to collaborate with you and a legal professional to make sure your wishes are followed through.

Danielson Group Wealth Management