Animal shelters across South Africa are seeing an increase in the number of pets they are accepting, which can be attributed to their owners passing from COVID-19 or simply not being in a position to afford them anymore due to job losses and salary cuts.

In South Africa, a certain amount of protection is granted to animals under the Animal Protection Act of 1962. However, nothing is specified in the Act regarding what happens to your pets when you die, and many people don’t even consider this.

What Will Happen to Your Pet After You Die?

Before your pets are dropped off at an animal shelter after your death, perhaps it is time to rethink your Will?

Just as children can be included in your Will, so can your pets. There is no law prohibiting this, nor is there any law that prohibits pets from being beneficiaries of your Will. In the event of your death, you will need to consider what will happen to your pets, if they outlive you. Who will take care of them?

Estate Planning for Pets

Estate planning ensures that your loved ones, and in this case, your pets, are taken care of after your passing. To ensure that your pets are well looked after in the event of your early demise, the following points should be considered when you are planning your Estate:

Choosing a New Owner

When choosing someone to inherit your pets, they need to be willing and have the ability and space to look after them properly. The new owner may have to comply with relevant homeowner legislation depending on whether they live in a complex or a stand-alone home. If they are renting their property, their Landlord may not allow Tenants to keep pets. This clause may need to be regularly updated in your Will.

The person whom you choose should be responsible, trustworthy and love animals. Also, make sure that the needs of your pet/s will be met with whomever you choose. You may want to set up an informal written agreement with the person in the hope that your instructions will be carried out after your death.

Establish a Trust for Your Pet

Assigning a caregiver for your pet after your death is essential but, if possible, it is recommended that you create a pet trust to help the caregiver look after your pets. As per a standard Will, a Trustee will need to be appointed to administer these funds to the caregiver to look after the beneficiary, your pet/s.

How to Fund a Pet Trust

This Trust is no different from any other Trust Fund set up after a person’s death. Although you will not be able to cede your assets directly to your pet, you will be able to surrender some or all of your assets to the Trust Fund. The Trustees will then ensure that sufficient money is paid to the caregiver to take care of your pet’s food, grooming, medical care and any other specific needs that it may have during the rest of its life.

What Happens to the Pet Trust Fund if the Pet Dies?

You can nominate a beneficiary in a case like this to either continue receiving money from the Trust Fund or to have the Trust dissolved and a lump sum paid out. The beneficiary doesn’t necessarily have to be an individual either. It can be an animal shelter, such as the SPCA, or another charity of your choosing.

Instructions to the Caregiver After Your Death

A letter of instruction regarding general advice about the upkeep of your pet/s does not have to meet any legal requirement and can work nicely together with your Will. However, bear in mind that it is not a legally binding document and cannot be used to allocate funds to your pet/s. This instruction must be included in your Will.

Do You Need an Attorney To Assist Setting Up A Pet Trust Fund?

Considering all the above, you may be asking yourself if you need an Attorney to assist you in setting up a Trust and a caregiver for your pet/s in your Will. While not absolutely necessary, Attorneys can provide essential legal points of view and insight that are helpful if your Will is not straightforward, as in wanting to include your pet/s or in setting up a Trust Fund.

Who Can Help Me to Set Up a Trust Fund for My Pet?

AED Attorneys will help you to find the best options for your pet/s and give you peace of mind in the process. They can offer you expert advice when writing your Will, including many things that you may not even have thought about. AED takes every person’s situation into account to create a Will tailored to your circumstances.

Leave Behind a Legacy

Even the best intentions and plans can go wrong, especially when it comes to financial gain, you’re your pet/s caregiver. Therefore, you need to be very careful about whom you choose as a caregiver and leave self-explanatory instructions in your Will about how your pet/s will be cared for after your death.

Before your pet gets dropped off at an animal shelter or the SPCA after your untimely death, contact AED Attorneys for further options and assistance with estate planning. This planning will include the appointment of an experienced Executor and Trustees to ensure that your pet/s are well looked after in the event of your passing.

It is always advisable to have a minimum of three Trustees. When nominating a Trustee, you need always to make sure that the third trustee is independent and can administer a Trust. This ensures that there is no deadlock in the decision-making process.

AED Attorneys offer family-centred, open, and friendly legal services. From the moment you walk through their door, you will be treated with respect and patience. Each matter is handled individually and with the same care and dedication. They are passionate, hardworking, and professional.

AED Attorneys understands that every situation is unique, and although they strive to ensure that the information contained herein is accurate at the time of publishing, it cannot be guaranteed to be without errors or omissions. As a result, AED Attorneys, its employees, independent contractors, associates or third parties will under no circumstances accept liability or be held liable, for any innocent or negligent actions or omissions in this article, which may result in any harm or liability flowing from the use of or the inability to use the information provided.