All About Estates

Planning for Pets

This post was written by Diana Leopardi

While we often plan for our human children, it’s time to think about including our fur-babies into our estate planning.

Pets offer their owners the ultimate companionship and unconditional love. Often times, owners consider their pets family members so why not include pets in estate planning or in the event their owner becomes ill or incapacitated. If the primary owner was not able to care for their pet it would be important to determine who would get their care and who would look after their financial wellbeing.

When not planned accordingly, pets may be abandoned or given away if the owner has died or is incapable of caring for them. Inheriting a pet may be emotionally fulfilling (especially if the pet belonged to a loved one), however, this inheritance will soon turn into a big responsibility.

In Common Law Canada, pets are considered personal property. In Quebec, the Civil Code regards pets as “sentient beings”[1] rather than property. Nonetheless, neither legal system allows for pets to receive gifts made to them in a Last Will and Testament. Therefore, planning is crucial.

It would be prudent pre-determine the eventual pet-guardian and set aside some funds for the long-term care of the pet. The funds may be used for their expenses such as food, vaccines, veterinary and other medical treatments. Planning for pets can be done by including them in a Testamentary Pet Trust, or in a Mandate for example.

In creating a Trust for your pet, a trustee would be designated to utilize the funds of the trust to care for that pet in precisely the ways that you dictate in the trust provisions for the benefit of that pet. Upon their passing a subsequent beneficiary may be named or the funds may be given to a charity. This form of Trust in Common Law Canada is also referred to as a Purpose Trust whereas in Quebec Civil Law it would be considered a Private Trust (that can be included in a person’s Last Will and Testament).

Financial Institutions and Trust Companies are well positioned to offer this service. While the new guardian’s main focus should be to form a bond with the pet, the financial institution’s main objective would be to manage and ensure financial security to pay for current and unforeseen expenses.

Including provisions to care for a pet in estate planning would be a fair exchange for the love and friendship they have given towards their owner.

[1] Quebec Civil Code, article 898.1, Légis Québec (gouv.qc.ca)

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1 Comment

  1. Joanne Brigmantas

    July 7, 2022 - 3:10 pm
    Reply

    To take this a step further, I considered how I could streamline the work of my Executor, and to not have to include a contingent beneficiary in the probate application. I have provided $X for the care of my dogs to a specified person. I have directed that my ET does not need to monitor the use of the funds nor does their care provider does not need to account for the funds or return or gift over any funds should there be any money left over. Whatever funds are left over – and there will be funds left over – I feel the caregiver has earned it with their time, love, energy and effort.

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