Estate planning for pets

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When we welcome a pet into our lives, they quickly become a friend, confidante and loyal companion. Many of us even consider pets as a part of the family. Yet when it comes to planning for pets in the event of an emergency, a survey by AngusReid commissioned by Willful shows a large number of Canadians (45%) haven’t thought about it.* In fact, only 6% of pet owners have outlined a guardian for their pet in their will. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to include your pet in your will. This ensures they’ll continue to be taken care of if you were to pass away or face a serious illness. Unfortunately, one of the top reasons pets end up in shelters is because their owners pass away and there’s no one to care for them. If you have a pet, here’s what you can do to make sure they’re planned for if something happens to you.

How to include your pets in your estate plan

1. Make a will

Although 24% of Canadians have some type of informal plan for their pet if they were to become incapacitated or pass away, the best way to ensure that plan is followed out is by having it in writing in your will. You might expect a friend or family member to step up and take care of Fido but that doesn’t always happen. Not everyone wants to or is able to become a pet owner overnight. Make a will that includes your pet so that you can have peace of mind knowing they will continue to be spoiled if something happens to you.

TIP: It’s easy to make a will online using a platform like Willful (if you have a complicated estate, we suggest seeking advice from an estate lawyer). Get $10 off any Willful plan through Sonnet Connect.

2. Name a pet guardian

Although people typically outlive their pets, life is unpredictable. While we can’t see into the future, we can still prepare for the unexpected. Just like you would for a child, choosing someone you highly trust and believe would take good care of your pet will ensure they end up in the right hands. The next step is to discuss it with your chosen guardian to make sure it’s a role they’re both willing and able to take on. Let them know what type of care you’d want your pet to receive, their daily routine, diet, temperament and exercise so they know what to expect. It can be helpful to write out a care plan for your guardian with all relevant info and store it with your will so your executor can easily pass it on to your guardian.

3. Allocate resources

While you can’t name your pets as beneficiaries themselves (they’re considered property, not people, in your will), you can (and should!) leave money to your pet guardian to cover the cost of caring for your pet. If your pet has health problems, is a breed prone to health complications or has otherwise expensive care, this is especially important. This is because it will provide a financial security blanket for your guardian in the event of unexpected costs. It’s also a good idea to leave enough money to cover expected costs associated with food, vet bills and medical treatment (and even pet insurance too) over your pet’s lifetime.

4. Make updates

Making a will isn’t a one-and-done task. Life is always changing - we might get married, move homes, have children or even adopt more pets. If a big life change occurs, it’s important to update your will to keep it up-to-date. Check in every year to make sure your pet(s) are current and your pet guardian is still able to take on the role. Life can be full of surprises. As responsible pet owners, it’s our duty to ensure that there is a plan in place for the care of our furry family members in the event of the unexpected.


* Methodology: From September 23rd to September 25th 2019, a survey was commissioned by Willful with a representative sample of 1507 online members of the Angus Reid Forum located across Canada. The survey was conducted in both English and French.


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Sonnet is not a provider of legal services or advice. The above is for information purposes only, and it is not legal advice.


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