You might already know that when your family grows, whether by marriage or the birth of a child, you need to make a will (or update it if you already have one). But what about when you welcome a furry member into the family? You may be surprised to hear that this too means you should make or update your will. Only 6% of Canadian pet owners have included their pet in their will by outlining a pet guardian and 44% have never even thought about making a plan for their pet in case they pass away. Unfortunately, this is one of the top reasons pets end up in shelters – pet owners pass away, and there’s no one to care for the animal. If you have a pet, here’s what you need to do to make sure they’re cared for if something happens to you.
Make A Will
While 24% of Canadian pet owners have some sort of informal plan in place for their pet if they were to become incapacitated or pass away, writing that plan into your will is the best way to ensure your pet will be cared for even after you’re gone. You might assume that a friend or family member would step up to care for your pet, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. Including your pet in your will adds an extra layer of security for your plan and provides you with peace of mind knowing they’ll be cared for if something happens to you.
Choose A Pet Guardian
You may already know that if you have children, you need to choose a guardian to care for them. The same thing goes for pets - choose someone you trust and are confident will take good care of your pet to be their guardian (note that pets are not considered dependents, rather they are considered property, so the rules for guardians of children do not apply to pet guardians). The next step is discussing it with them to find out if it’s a role they’re willing and able to take on. You’ll need to chat about the type of care you’d want your pet to receive, daily routines, temperament, and any other relevant information that they’d need to know. You may want to write out a pet care plan with details on feeding, care, exercise and lifestyle and store it with your will so your executor can easily pass it on to your guardian.
Just like you would leave money to any children or beneficiaries in your will, you should leave money for your pet guardian to cover the cost of caring for your pet. This is especially important if:
- Your pet has health problems
- Their breed is prone to health complications
- Their care is expensive (for example, horses)
Leaving money to your pet’s guardian is an important precaution that helps ensure your pet will be well cared for. It also prevents the guardian from having to face unexpected costs. You should also consider leaving enough money to cover food and daily expenses along with an amount to cover the average cost of vet bills and medical treatment during the pet’s lifetime.
Update Your Will
Life is constantly changing - we have children, get married or divorced, and get more pets. Whenever big changes happen, you need to update your will and any associated plans so they’re as up-to-date as possible. It’s good practice to review your will every year to make sure your pet(s) are current, your pet guardian is still willing and able to take on the role, and to review other important components unrelated to your pet. Life is unpredictable and our pets deserve to have a strong, well thought out plan in place to make sure they’re cared for even after we’re gone.