Pets are important members of most modern families, making great companions and friends for children, couples and seniors, but how can we ensure they are looked after when we pass away?

Leading boutique law practice Parke Lawyers says that in Australia pets are not recognised as any special category under deceased estate laws, which come under the control of states and territories.

Parke Lawyers Managing Director Jim Parke says pets have a special place in our hearts, yet many of us don’t consider what might happen to them if they outlive us.

The most appropriate way to ensure your pet is looked after is to organise for a trusted carer, such as a friend or family member, to take care of it when you pass away.  If you plan to do so, it is important to communicate openly with friends and relatives if you are intending to nominate them to care for your pet.  If you choose to nominate a charity to care for your pet, make contact with the charity to ensure your wishes can be met.

Mr Parke says while there are many stories from around the world about wealthy people leaving millions of dollars for their pets, this is not possible in Australia.

Owing to Australia’s succession laws, it is not permissible to set up a trust for a pet as a beneficiary.

While you can create a trust in your Will, naming someone to care for your pet and allocating funds for this sole purpose, there is no guarantee they will follow through, so it is important to choose a suitable and trustworthy person.

You may also wish to provide further instructions about what happens to any funds that are not spent after the death of your pet. One option is to have funds from the trust to be paid periodically, such as every few months, during the time the beneficiary is to care for the pet. When the pet passes away, the trust determines and leftover funds are distributed to a charity. This needs to be documented properly to be effective.

There will also be ongoing costs and responsibility associated with managing the trust.

Mr Parke says it is prudent to seek specialist advice from professional wills and estates lawyers such as those at Parke Lawyers, to ensure your wishes for your pet are correctly documented. The Will writer will ask questions to assess your pet’s needs and canvas future options with you about their ongoing welfare.

“You can help to keep your beloved pet safe and well cared for by taking steps to ensure your wishes for them are included in your Will,” he adds.