A well-known theme of movies about animals involves the owner passing away and leaving their entire estate to their pets. This has also happened famously in real life. The world’s richest dog is Gunther IV as he inherited $375 million US from his dad who inherited his fortune from his owner, Karlotta Liebenstein, when she passed away in 1992. There is also the world’s richest cat, Blackie, who inherited about $12.5 million US from his owner, Ben Rea.
Pets inheriting millions reveal how much of a hold on our hearts our furry friends can have. However, in British Columbia this is not possible. Pets are considered property and as a result cannot be named beneficiaries of an estate. Once a person passes away the pet will become part of the estate and be given as a gift. Potentially, no one will want the pet and it could end up in a shelter.
One can make sure that a beloved pet is taken care of through a will. Provisions can be created stating that the pet is to go to a person who is trusted to take care of the pet. There is also the possibility of creating a trust for your pet so that there are funds for them to be taken care of. The funds would be held by someone you trust and would be distributed to the person taking care of your pet for your pet’s care as required. As pets can be expensive, this form of trust can potentially stop your pet from ending up in a shelter if the person responsible for taking care of your pet is unable to do so financially.
It is also important to note that it is possible for a will-maker’s spouse or child (biological or legally adopted) to challenge a will in British Columbia. So, if a person leaves their entire estate to a pet and nothing for family members, there is a risk that the will-maker’s wishes will be varied by a court under the Wills and Estates Succession Act. A court will consider if the will-maker failed to leave an adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of their spouse or children.
Since pets have become to be seen as family members, see your legal advisor to help in this potentially important aspect of estate planning to gain the legal advice needed to make sure a beloved pet is taken care of adequately.