New research from Simpson Millar has shown that 44% of pet owners are planning to leave a significant amount of money to ensure the welfare of their pets once they pass away.
On average, pet owners are planning to leave £3,642 in a trust for their beloved animal. This is compared to the median UK inheritance left to next of kin of £11,000. With Statista data revealing there are 51 million domestic animals in the UK, calculations show that the nation’s much-loved pets could be set to inherit as much as £81.7 million in owners’ wills.
One in 10 (9%) pet owners claimed to be leaving more than £10,000 for the welfare of their animal, with three in six (6%) leaving over £20,000.
Although you cannot directly leave money to your pets in a will, solicitors at Simpson Millar advise that you can leave money in a trust, which a selected beneficiary can then access to look after your pet.
Men plan to leave more money to look after their pets than women, with an average of £4,176 compared to £3,642 for women. Young people (18-24-year-old) are the most likely to leave some money to their pets (70%), however, those over 65 are the most likely to be generous – 13% say they will leave their pet over £20,000.
As well as a trust for their pet, pet owners also plan to leave an average of £1,717 to a pet charity.
The UK’s biggest pet lovers (based on the % who said they plan to leave them some money) are:
- Northern Ireland (61%)
- London (52%)
- East Midland (50%)
- North East (50%)
- Yorkshire (47%)
A third of pet owners (31%) are planning on leaving their animal to their children, one in five will leave their pet to their partner, and just four in 100 plans to leave their pet to a re-homing charity.
However, one in five owners (21%) have not planned to leave any money to ensure the welfare of their pets, and 20% have not yet thought about who will care for their pet when they pass away.
Leaving large sums of money to ensure the welfare of pets is also popular amongst celebrities and the wealthy – the richest cat in the world is reportedly a black cat named ‘Blackie’ who inherited £7 million in 1988 when his owner Ben Rea — an antiques dealer — left a good portion of his fortune to his beloved pet. TV host Oprah Winfrey will also reportedly leave $30 million (£23 million) to her five dogs, and Actress Betty White will reportedly leave $5 million (£3.7 million) to her dog.
Simpson Millar advises that if someone dies and there are no plans for their pet, it can cause problems for those looking after their estate. If they have not made provisions for their pet in their will, the Executors of the will are responsible for the animal and will be in charge of finding someone to look after the animal, be it a family member or re-homing charity.
If there is no will in place at all, there won’t be anyone held responsible for the pet, so their well being will vary on a case by case basis.
Jonathan Maskew, Head of Probate, Wills and Trusts at Simpson Millar, has put together some tips for how to ensure your pet is looked after when you pass away:
- Ensure you make a will if you have not already
No matter how old you are or how many assets you have, you should take the time to make a will. Your will tells everyone what should happen to your money, possessions, and property in line with your wishes. Without one, the law will reside how your estate is passed on, which might not be what you want.
- Make provisions for your pet in your will
Decide if you want to appoint a guardian for your pet, and who that should be. Make sure you consider if this specific person would actually be able to look after your pet – consider if they have sufficient time, space, and knowledge.
- Consider the cost of pet maintenance
Pet ownership costs money, and if you’re planning to leave your pet to someone, you should always consider leaving cash to help your beneficiary with the costs of the pet.
- Ensure you correctly draft your will
Ensure your will is correctly worded so it’s clear what the requirements of your pets beneficiary are, what they will be provided with, and consider any mitigating circumstances. Consider seeking legal advice on will writing to make sure all your wishes are followed.