It seems like most people in Port Moody and Coquitlam have a pet. You can go out for a walk at any time of the day and easily run into one or two dogs taking a walk with their owners. Pets are more than just furry friends we have. They are more like family. Sometimes when people are talking to their pets, they use terms like daddy and mommy. Many pet owners will describe themselves as a cat mom, dog mom, or put emojis of a cat or a dog to let others know about their pets on their Instagram.
“What will happen to my pet when I die?”
Many people are concerned about what might happen to their pets when they are no longer here to take care of them. You can appoint a guardian for your children and leave money or property to them (which will be held in trust until they reach the age you described in your will), but can you do the same for pets?
Not exactly, because pets are considered property, not family, but you can do something similar for your pet.
As mentioned above, pets are considered property which means that you can leave a wish in your will about what should happen to your pet. It can range from appointing a new owner (or a “guardian”, if you prefer to think of them that way) for your pet to setting up a trust for the care of your pet.
You Can Appoint a New Owner
Because pets are considered property, you can appoint a new owner by making an outright gift of your pet to that person. To do so, you will need to include a clause in your will that talks about it. You can appoint a sole owner for your pet with an alternative in case of a new owner not being able to take care of your pet. You can even appoint two owners to take care of your pet either jointly or individually. If there is no one to appoint as a new owner, you can also appoint a non-profit organization like The Regional Animal Protection Society (“RAPS”), or The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“BC SPCA”). They both provide programs that take care of pets whose owners have passed away. If you have more than one pet and wish your pets to be kept together, make sure you express it in your will. You can also make a cash gift to the new owner along with your pet to reduce the financial burden of taking care of your pet.
You Can Set Up a Pet Trust
If you are not too keen on making an outright, one-time cash gift to the new pet owner, you might want to consider setting up a trust for your pet. It does not mean that you can leave money directly to your pet. Pets are considered property, and therefore, they cannot be named as beneficiaries. Though, what you can do is set up a “Purpose Trust.” You can set up a trust that sets aside money for the purpose of taking care of your pet.
This option may come in handy in situations where your pet only survives for a short period of time. Setting up a trust will allow your trustee to be in charge of the money while your pet is alive instead of the new owner. After your pet dies, your trustee will deal with the remainder as directed in your will. This can prevent the new owner from ending up with a large sum of money that should have been used to take care of the pet. However, this option is more complicated than making an outright gift. For example, setting up a trust requires the trustee to take care of the trust, and there are income tax issues to be dealt with. Also, as mentioned above, this type of trust is a purpose trust and is not charitable. Because it is a non-charitable purpose trust, it cannot exist for more than 21 years. It means that if you have a pet turtle, that might be an issue, leaving your pet turtle in its own “Schitt’s creek” situation.
◊ Fun Fact: Have you ever heard of a cat named Choupette? She is the cat of the world-famous designer Karl Lagerfeld. She inherited a large sum of Karl’s fortune when he passed away in 2019. She might be the richest cat in the world! She currently lives with her two maids and has her own Instagram account that shares her daily life with the users.
Brennan J. Clarkson has helped clients with family law and estate law cases since 2008. He practices in Port Moody, British Columbia at Clarkson Law Corporation.
Contact Clarkson Law Corporation today for a free 30 minute consultation.