APRIL is National Pets Month! We share our Legal Tails…..

April 3, 2019 by Melinda @ Giles Wilson

APRIL is National Pets Month!  We share our Legal Tails…..

Our Leigh Broadway office loves to see passing dogs stop and drink from our doggie bowl, and so here we celebrate National Pets Month!

April 2019 is National Pets Month when we are encouraged to celebrate life with our pets, and think about responsible pet ownership.  What, you may ask, do lawyers have to do with that?  I’ve been around our office and asked our solicitors to share their legal tails….

Our divorce lawyers tell me that when a couple divorce, any family pet is treated in law as a chattel -  the same as a piece of furniture, and as the court do not like to get involved in who will have the settee or CD collection, neither do they become involved in a disagreement over where your pet will live.  This can be another overlooked, but distressing aspect of a divorce.  Unlike other young family members (such as children…), the court do not consider what is in the pet’s best interests and therefore it is for the couple to agree between them, or via their lawyers, on where the pet will live.  I have heard some good stories in our office of the Shared Residence Arrangements made for the pets where it is agreed who the pet will live with, and whether there will be weekend visits to the other parent. 

Our will making and probate lawyers are very familiar with making arrangements for loved pets.  It is a very important aspect of end of life planning, because otherwise, just as in a divorce, a pet is considered a chattel and will fall to be dealt with in the same way as all our books, cars and furniture.  The most important decision to make regarding your pet is where they will live and who will look after them. This would apply for the pets you currently have but also those that you may acquire and have at the time that you die.  It is a good idea to ask someone if they are prepared to take on your pet, and if so, what the financial arrangements will be.  Pets can be expensive to feed and take to the vet!  And, no matter how intelligent we think our own pets are, they cannot own a property or a bank account.

Therefore, money will often be left to fund the care of a pet.  There are two main ways that this can be done; either by creating a pet trust which is complex but could be the only way to ensure that your pet (s) have enough money in the kitty (excuse the pun), to care for them for their lifetime, and that there is a legal obligation to use that money on them.  The other way is simply to leave an amount of money to the person who is going to look after your pet, and hope that they act honourably in spending that money on the pet and looking after him or her properly.  I can recall reading a letter of a wishes that specified that the pet cat was to only be fed on fresh poached salmon, and that the money left had been calculated to pay for this.

According to the media, the legendary designer Karl Lagerfield left a share of his vast fortune to his cat, Choupette.  Details have not yet emerged as to whether this was in a trust or a gift to a trusted friend, but it seems quite likely that Choupette will be well looked after…

This editoral is by Melinda Giles at Giles Wilson Solicitors.  

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