There’s a simple reason we might talk of pets in wills.
Many people have enjoyed the uncritical unconditional companionship of their pets. Some people have found pets useful and therapeutic companions.
Thus, many include provision for their pets in wills. Naturally, they want their friends and companions to be cared for. They’re concerned with the question ‘who will care for my pets when I die?’.
include my Pet in My Will
Many a film refers to this occurrence of pets in wills.
Alas, it’s genre of moving picture typically comprises cheap tedious fare that’s unworthy of your time or your attention. A few such cinematic expositions become blockbusters, however most such litter the afternoon television schedules (I’ve viewed them so you don’t have to. You’re welcome. Oh, the labours to which I go for my art.)
Many a third-rate, not-fit-for-a weekday-afternoon, direct-to-TV film has a plot point, sometimes a central plot, where some eccentric millionaire has left a fortune to a pet, usually a dog.
The answer to the question: ‘what happens to money left to pets?’ is ‘nothing’. Pets can’t own property.
Look After Your Pets: Greed & Contempt
There are a few well-known cases of folk naming their pets in their wills.
In this regard, many cite Leona Hemsley, the hustling hotel heiress, who left a fortune amounting to fifteen millions of pounds in today’s money to her pet dog. Leona infamously opined in sincerity, with no hint of the slightest shadow of a trace of self-awareness, that only little people pay taxes, displaying the sort of contempt for the general populace for which I invite you to supply your own contemporary metaphor. In a fit of the faux iconoclastic, she named her dog Trouble.
To move away from this display of avarice and venality, many are sincere in making provision for the care of their animals
‘Tis the simplest matter in the world to make provisions for your animals in your will.
You’d be requesting, but not demanding or making the care of your pet a condition of any bequest or legacy. The reason we make the distinction between a demand and a request is that conditions in wills are the fount of all manner of problems. One must resist the temptation to hold the opinion ‘it my money, and I can do with it as you wish’. This would be counter to the spirit of testamentary freedom. Conditions in wills are complicated things. The main problem with conditions in wills is this: how would the condition be policed?
Providing for Your Pets: Letter of Wishes
The best way to make provision for your pets in your wills would be with your letter of wishes. The letter of wishes, is a request, but not a direction to your executors that certain actions be performed. The clue is in the selection of executors, but that is a matter for another day.
Another way to look after your pet is to leave a pet clause in your will.
You might, although often unnecessary, leave a sum of the order of five thousand pounds to the person charged with care of the beast. Like with any item in your will, the request can be declined. In such an event the executors would by their best endeavours, ensure the animal is well looked after. If it came to it, the pet would be sent to a local sanctuary.
Let’s think on this for seven seconds: animals can’t own property, animals can’t hold property, animals can’t accept gifts in wills. There’s really no such thing as a pet will template.
Filmmakers do the public and their profession a disservice with the lumpen, turgid films that imply pets can be the recipients of gifts in wills. A child, even a not particularly bright one would muse pets can’t own property, so there’s scant point in writing about pets in wills.
Leona Hemsley was, with the subtly of a sledgehammer parading her contempt for folk less wealthy than she.
There are more sensible, less crass ways to solve the issue of what to do with pets when owner dies than Helmsley.