Legal advice essential when providing for pets in wills

British households purchased an estimated 3.2 million pets during the Covid pandemic* and now owners are increasingly including provisions to pay for the ongoing care of their furry friends in their wills.

The country has 17 million pet-owning homes according to figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, with the recent boom in pet ownership driven by young people, many of whom have bought pets in response to social isolation during the pandemic.

While providing for the care of a beloved pet is understandable, the peculiarities of the law concerning how pets are provided for needs to be carefully considered when drafting a will, according to a solicitor specialising in will drafting and estate planning with law firm Furley Page.

Sam Perry, Solicitor in Furley Page’s Private Client team, said: “The Covid pandemic resulted in more people buying pets as companions, while greater numbers also took steps to update their will. For many people, pets are an important part of the family but providing for them in a will is not as straightforward as providing for other family members and it is important to get specialist advice to ensure your wishes are fulfilled.

“Pets do not have a distinct legal personality and are technically belongings, but they sit in their own category between possessions and dependants and need to be considered carefully. There is a distinction between pets and livestock for the purpose of a will, with livestock treated as a business asset under different rules. For pets, this means that you need to leave instructions about them in your will, and any financial provision you want to make for them cannot be a gift to the pet.

“You will need to consider what you wish to happen to your pet. including whether to leave them to a family member, friend or a re-homing organisation. You should think about any specific wishes you have, such as the type of home you would like them to go to and any way in which you would like them to be cared for. If your pet requires unusual care, or extensive facilities or land, this may need extra consideration when it comes to deciding who the best person is to care for your pet.

“You can also consider providing a financial sum to contribute towards the care of your pet including food, vet bills, and other such essential costs. While you cannot leave money directly to your pet, you could provide a monetary gift to the re-homing charity towards their operating costs or set up a bare trust to allow the person responsible for your pet’s care to use the funds for your pet’s benefit.

“Depending on the age of your pet and their likely lifespan, you can work out an appropriate level of funds to cover their remaining care. You can also specify details about how flexible you want to be with the terms under which trust funds can be spent, and any additional wishes you would like known about the care of your pet after you’re gone.”

Pets must be considered carefully within a will, and a well-drafted will, prepared by an expert, will ensure that all eventualities are covered. For further information, please contact Sam Perry on 01634 828277 or email You can also follow the firm on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) @furleypage