You’ve likely heard about legal guardians for children but what about pets?

Whether you’ve been named a pet guardian or are looking to include one in your will, in this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about pet guardianship.

What Is A Pet Guardian?

Similar to a guardian for a minor child, a pet guardian is appointed in a will to be the new guardian for a pet after their owner passes away.

While many people have an informal plan for their pets if they were to pass away, only 6% of Canadian pet owners have outlined their wishes for their pets in a will. Many individuals assume that a friend or family member would step up to care for your pet, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. This is where a pet guardian comes into play!

What Are The Responsibilities Of A Pet Guardian?

A pet guardian is essentially taking over ownership from the original owner after they pass away. Pets are a big responsibility – when no plan is made, no one is left to care for them, which results in many pets being passed off to a shelter. Some responsibilities of a pet guardian include:

  • Providing for the pet’s day-to-day needs
  • Taking the pet for regular vet appointments
  • Giving the pet appropriate exercise
  • Pet training

If you pass away, the pet becomes yours. Unlike dependents, pets are considered property in Canada, so the rules for guardians of children don’t apply to pets. 

Why Would Someone Name Me As A Pet Guardian In Their Will?

For most Canadians, furry family members are just as important as their human counterparts. If you’ve been named as a pet guardian, it means the person who created their will is trusting you to provide for and take care of their pet if they are no longer around.

At Willful, we always recommend that the testator (person who created the will) reach out to their potential pet guardian to discuss the role and responsibilities. If you’ve been named as a pet guardian, it is helpful to speak with the pet owner about the care they want their pet to receive, daily routines, temperament, and any other relevant information. 

They may also want to write out a pet care plan outlining feeding, care, exercise, and other details to provide you if the time comes. If they do this, you should ask them where you’ll find it!

If you’ve unexpectedly come into the role, you can also ask the executor of the estate if the pet owner had left any specific wishes or instructions related to their pet.

Do I Have To Accept The Role Of Pet Guardian?

No! A pet is a large responsibility, so if you’re not able or willing to take on the role, you do not have to accept. They can also be a large financial responsibility, so make sure to factor this into your decision.

However, if someone lets you know that they would like you to be guardian to their pet, it’s important to let them know if you are uncomfortable with the role sooner rather than later. This way they can choose another person and update their documents accordingly.

Learn More About Planning For Pets In Your Will →

Please note that Willful is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice. All information in our Learn Centre is general and public information can also be researched through your provincial Attorney General website.