Who will look after your pets when you die?
With just 6% of the British population having a pre-paid funeral in place, a tiny minority of people in Britain enjoy the peace of mind that a funeral plan can bring. But the implications of failing to plan for the future can extend beyond our human family.
We might assume that friends or family will take in our pets when we pass, but without putting a plan for their care in place, can we really be sure they will be looked after properly?
There are over 2.2 million people aged 75 and over living alone in Great Britain - an increase of almost a quarter over the past 20 years. And, as we live longer independently on our own, it is not uncommon for an elderly person to leave a much-loved cat or dog behind when they die.
Check the Will
When someone dies, an important first step is to check if they have made a will and in relation to their pets, if there are any instructions for their care. The ideal is that it states clearly that the deceased would like a specific family member to look after their cat or dog. And in planning ahead for the care of your pets, making mention of your wishes in your Will is an important consideration.
However, the named person is not required to take responsibility for any pets. In planning ahead it is crucial to have the conversation about your pets with the people involved well before the fact. Knowing they have agreed to take them in will bring real peace of mind.
In the event that there has been no one named, or the person named is unwilling or unable to look after the animal, then the Will's executors are responsible for finding the pet a new home. In legal terms, animals are regarded as personal property and subject to the same rules as other aspects of the estate.
Even without a Will, the executor may try to find a new home for pets left behind. But if no one comes forward to rehome the animals, it is likely that your pets will be taken to a local animal shelter or charity to be cared for and, hopefully, found a new home.
But without a clear plan in place, there are no guarantees how, or for how long, the pet will be looked after; in some animal shelters sick or elderly animals are at risk of being destroyed when the shelter runs out of available space.
Putting a pet-plan in place
It is, however, possible to plan ahead properly for your pet's future should they outlive you, with several animal charities offering rehoming schemes that can be arranged in advance.
The Home for Life scheme run by the RSPCA makes provision for pets after their owner's death, guaranteeing to look after them in the short term and making efforts to find them someone to look after them in a loving home for the long term.
The RSPCA says, "Home for Life gives any responsible pet owner peace of mind that their pet will be well looked after by perhaps the most well-known charity in the world".
The charity recommends that pet owners make or update their Will with clear instructions on how to rehome their pet through the Home for Life scheme. It says that by using a specially provided clause to formally acknowledge the RSPCA in your Will and by returning a formal application form, you can 'rest assured that your pets will be left in the hands of a dedicated team who promise to love and care for your pet as their own'.
The Home for Life scheme is free and there are no limits on the number of pets that can be provided for, although a separate application is required for each animal. However, charities like the RSPCA wouldn't be able to do the work they do without donations from the public. The charity asks pet owners planning to use the Home for Life scheme to consider including a gift to the charity in your Will when you make it or have it updated.
Other charities that offer similar schemes include Cats Protection and Dogs Trust. They both provide emergency care cards that alert the emergency services that you have a pet that will need to be taken care of should you be taken ill.
Golden Charter has one of the largest network of independent funeral directors in the UK. Many are long-standing, family-run businesses and all provide a compassionate and professional service. Find out more about how you can plan for your funeral with one of the funeral directors in our network. Request a free, no obligation information pack below or call 0808 169 4534.