What happens to your pet when you die?

We all love our pets - often more than we love people. It's important to think about their care when we're gone.

In the UK, we’re a nation of animal lovers. Who doesn’t love ’em? I once walked into a lamppost because I was too busy looking at a cute Golden Retriever puppy. Totally worth it.

Anyway, 57% of households in the UK own a pet. But have you ever wondered what happens to your pet when you die? I know it’s morbid, but our furry (or feathered, or even scaly) friends are a huge part of our lives and our homes. They’re not just pets, they’re family – and that’s why you need to think about what’ll happen to them.

A cute Westie dog, wearing glasses with a little blue jumper, with his paws in front of a laptop, researching what happens to your pet when you die.
He’s making his own arrangements. Good boy.

In this blog, we’ll talk about what happens to your pets when you die and how you can make sure that they’re cared for after you’re gone.

What happens to your pet when you die without a Will?

Obviously, everyone’s situation is different. It’s hard to give a definitive answer. It depends on your circumstances. If you’re what I’ll call a pet parent – you and a partner own a pet together – it’s a pretty safe assumption that your partner would look after your pet.

But if you’re the sole owner of the pet, things can get a bit complicated. In the eyes of the law, pets are just considered as part of your estate (they’re classed as chattels). If you die without a Will they pass on just as any of your other possessions do – they go to whoever the rules of intestacy decide they should. You don’t get any say over who that’ll be, although the rules prioritise close (blood) relations, and they won’t go to anyone you aren’t related to.

Keep in mind, though, no one has to take responsibility for your pet. They might have young kids, they might not have the time or money. There’re a whole host of reasons why someone might not want your pet. Maybe they just straight up don’t want a pet. They can say no, and then, unless someone else close to you is willing to take it in, your furry friend will probably end up at an animal charity or shelter.

That’s not the worst thing in the world, I guess, but it’s not ideal. Charities like the RSPCA do all they can, but they’re not a substitute for a loving home. It’s a strange place full of strange faces. Not only that (and sorry to get depressing) but there’s always a chance your pet might be put down in an animal shelter – especially if they’re elderly or unwell. It’s heart-breaking, but they just don’t have the space or resources.

The good news is you can avoid that happening. All you need to do is plan ahead. Start having conversations with your loved ones, start exploring your options. Start putting things in place to make sure your pet’s going to be loved when you’re gone – and the most important thing is to get a Will.

Making sure your pet is looked after

If you die without a Will you get no say over what happens to your stuff. You get no say over where your pet goes. If you have a Will, you get to choose who cares for them and you can plan for it.

Before you get a Will, you’ll need to think about who you want to care for your pet. Take your time and think it through. Would any on your loved ones be prepared to take them in? There are a fair few things you’ll need to consider:

  • Are they fit and capable?
  • Can they afford it?
  • Do they have any other pets? Are they friendly?
  • Do they have space? Do they have a garden?
  • Does your pet know them? Are the comfortable around them?
  • Do they have time?

And, most importantly, are they willing? Looking after a pet is a massive commitment. Talk to them, ask how they feel about it, and keep in mind that they might be too polite to say no. If they seem a bit hesitant or uncomfortable, don’t force it on them. You don’t want to burden someone with a pet they don’t want – it’s not fair on anyone. If they aren’t receptive to the idea, start thinking about your other options – ask someone else!

When you have found someone willing to care for your pet, all you need to do is write them into your Will. It’s a nice idea to leave them a chunk of money too to help cover the costs and expenses of owning and looking after a pet – food, grooming, medical bills. Pets can be expensive, and any way you can help would be a massive help, I reckon.

What if I can’t find anyone willing to look after my pet?

If there’s no one available to take your pet in, don’t worry. You’ve still got some options.

Many animal charities have schemes you can sign up to and they’ll look after your pet for you after you’ve died. Some you have to pay for, some are free. With the free ones, though, it is kind of expected that you’ll leave a gift to the charity in your Will.

If you’re interested, here’re a few of the schemes:

Bear in mind, though, that although these charities do what they can to look after your pet, in some rare cases euthanasia is still considered. Decisions like that aren’t taken lightly, and it’s always based on medical advice from experts, but it’s something you might want to keep in mind. Some charities won’t be able to take in animals that have certain medical conditions, so you’ll need to research into it and see what works best for you and your pet.

You love your pet – if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be on this page. Just think about what works best for your animal and put steps in place to make sure it happens. Explore your options, discuss it with your loved ones. And, most importantly, write a Will. It’s the only way to guarantee your wishes and make sure your pet goes where you want.

If you want to make sure your pet’s looked after, give us a ring us on +44 (0)330 229 0331, drop us an email at hello@vitaldocuments.co.uk or arrange a call with us – we’ve got you (and your pet!) covered!

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Declan Ramsden
Declan Ramsden

Declan is a Content Creator at Vital Documents! He studied English Literature for 4 years before joining the company. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to retro music and reading classic novels – particularly Charles Dickens!

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