Pets have shorter lives than humans, but what happens when they outlive you? Like many people, you probably consider your pets to be a part of your family and want to make sure that they’re taken care of after you die. However, in the eyes of the law, pets are considered property and not beneficiaries. Therefore, you can’t will them an inheritance.
What happens to a pet when its owner dies?
In Singapore, these scenarios could happen to your pet when you die:
- If you have a will, but it doesn’t mention your pet, then your pet may go to your residuary beneficiaries. These are the persons you’ve named to receive what’s left of your property after specific gifts, taxes and expenses have been paid out. Whom out of these residuary beneficiaries will take your pet? It’s highly possible that Rover may eventually be shunted to an animal shelter.
- You could write a conditional cash gift into your will. You’d need to draft your will in such a way that this beneficiary will only get the cash gift if he or she agrees to take care of your pet. You may wish to consult a lawyer to accurately word this condition so that it can be enforced upon your death. (At this stage, iWills.sg is unable to assist with the addition of conditions in your will.)
- If you don’t have a will at all when you die, then your property (pets included) are subject to our intestacy laws. This means that the court will appoint someone (usually an immediate family member) to be the administrator of your estate. That person will be responsible for deciding what happens to your pet.
- If you set up a trust for your pet, you can make your pet a beneficiary. Assign a caregiver for your pet and a trustee to manage the funds set aside for Rover. You will need a lawyer to help you with this. Establishing this trust alone could cost upwards of $1,500.
- The last is our most practical and most inexpensive solution: Your pet goes to your chosen pet guardian based on an informal agreement. Your executor passes along a letter of instructions to the new pet guardian, who also gets an unconditional cash gift in return for taking care of your pet. This is the best arrangement you can make at the lowest cost with the help of iWills.sg. Read on to find out how!
Handpick a new pet owner first
Whatever it is that you choose to do, you will need to select a new guardian for Rover while you’re still alive.
Consider the needs of your pet and the ability of the person in meeting the challenges of pet care. Is this person financially stable? Does he or she have other pets? What type of housing does this person live in? In Singapore, there are certain restrictions and guidelines governing pet ownership that the pet guardian will need to comply with.
For example, dogs will need be licensed. HDB flat dwellers may only keep one dog of an approved small breed in each residential unit. If Rover is a cat, you will need to make sure that the new guardian is willing to mesh up the entire apartment to prevent accidents.
Get an informal agreement
Once you’ve shortlisted Rover’s new guardian, you will need to approach this person and pop the question. As this is an informal agreement, its success will hinge on this person’s willingness and trustworthiness. You won’t be able to make this person comply with your wishes after your death.
The first question to this person, of course, is whether he or she is willing and able to take care of Rover after your death. If Rover has any special needs, now’s the time to let this person know. If he or she finds Rover too high-maintenance, you might want to move on to the next person on your list.
You might want to let this person know when you wish for them to start taking care of Rover. Perhaps you might prefer Rover to go to its new home the moment you’re gravely ill and have become incapacitated.
Allocate a cash gift
After you’ve settled on a guardian for Rover, you may put down this person’s name as a beneficiary in your will. You can do this in the second page of your will writing journey in iWills.sg.
Then, in the next section under “Bequests”, decide how much to gift in cash to help cover pet expenses. You might want to use a Pet Trust Calculator to help you determine how much Rover might cost its new owner in vet fees, pet food and boarding for the rest of its natural lifespan.
In short, you’d need to consider your pet’s life expectancy, its expenses, and its likelihood of developing health issues. Whatever you allocate, it should be within the realm of possibility of what your pet might need for its care. It should not be so excessive that your family members would want to challenge the will in court.
As this is an informal agreement, Rover’s future guardian won’t be obligated to use this cash gift solely for your pet’s care. Therefore, this person must be someone you trust implicitly.
Leave a message in Time Capsule
Next, leave detailed instructions for Rover’s new caregiver in the iWills.sg Time Capsule, which subscribers of iWills.sg’s Executive Plan will get to use.
Address a message to Rover’s future guardian. Describe the needs of your pet and provide medical information. Organise your pet’s vaccine records and other medical records, and tell the future caregiver where to find them. If your pet is picky, describe every detail possible to ensure that their special needs are met. Disclose when to schedule veterinary visits, specific walking hours, a certain pet food brand to purchase, or even a favourite toy.
Each message in the Time Capsule has a 1000-character limit. If this is insufficient, you can compose your letter in a PDF document and upload that instead.
Do bear in mind though, that such letters of instruction are not legally binding.
Let the executor of your will know of this arrangement, and that he or she should write in to us at email@example.com to request for your Time Capsule content. We will release all the content of an iWills.sg Executive Plan user’s Time Capsule to the executor or next-of-kin upon production of the death certificate and will. Your executor should then disseminate your messages and letters of instruction to each individual addressee.
If our proposition sounds good to you, head on to https://iwills.sg/fullmenu and sign up for an Executive Plan with iWills.sg now!
When Rover gets a new sibling, remember to come back and update the contents of your Time Capsule, and even your will!