Estate Planning Canada | Pet

How Pet Guardianship Works When You Die

I never considered pet guardianship when I had my first dog in the UK, my best friend.

When I moved to Canada, I tried to give him away to a new home, but I couldn’t.

Honestly, I cried at what might happen to him because I didn’t have a plan.

I decided to bring my dog to Canada, and I’m happy that I did, as I spent his final years with him.

He passed away in 2014, but I wasn’t aware of pet guardianship until I found Epilogue.

Ensuring a pet is provided for owners when the owners pass away before the pet is essential.

If you own a pet and have yet to create a legal Will which includes pet guardianship, you’re not alone.

Even if you have your Will and testament, you can still create a Pet Guardianship Will.

It has been four years since we created our legal Will and locked it in a fireproof safe in our home.

Our power of attorney knows where to find our Will if we pass away or become incapacitated.

Nowhere in our legal Will does it state who should care for our pet cat upon death or incapacitation.

For this reason, we want to include our cat in our legal Will, so I researched.

Epilogue Cares For Your Pet

Today, I want to talk about pet guardianship because a pet is part of the family and an asset.

I will be looking at a Canadian online company, Epilogue, to help you draw up a legal Will online, including Pet Guardianship.

  • What is pet guardianship?
  • How to select a pet guardian?
  • How to include your pet in your legal Will
  • What happens if you don’t address your pet in a Will when you die?
  • Should you leave a monetary gift for your pet’s new owner when you die?
  • The difference between pet guardianship and pet stewardship
  • What programs or resources does your local humane society have for pets after the owner’s death?

How To Ensure Your Pet Will Be Cared For After You Die

Not all pets die before their owners, and not all owners take the time to find a pet guardian.

Canadians hear the message about creating a Will and Power of Attorney, and even that’s a far stretch.

You don’t have to go to an estate lawyer if your legal Will and Power of Attorney are simple such as ours.

Our son was four years old when we considered creating a Will with a local lawyer.

We should have created a Will when he was born since we couldn’t imagine him left without a guardian.

Going back in time, we could have created an online Will for less with the Canadian company Epilogue for as little as $139 to $179.

Epilogue is available in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and PEI.

Our Will cost us $500 each for a total of $1000 when we could have quickly done it online and customized it the way we wanted.

However, now we have a different focus for our Will, and that’s our one-year-old pet cat.

Before Buying A Pet, Consider Planning Ahead

Things you may want to consider before and after purchasing a pet is who will look after it when you can’t.

Like us, we didn’t even think about this situation until our neighbour passed away in February 2022.

Her husband had passed before her, and they had a dog she walked daily for exercise.

Mrs. CBB and I walked by the house this weekend and wondered where the dog had gone.

I started researching where pets go if we die before them.

We didn’t want to see our pet left without a loving home such as our own.

Little did I know that there were resources available for Canadians who want their pet looked after.

I want to discuss two resources: pet guardianship and pet stewardship, which we recently learned.

What Is Pet Guardianship?

Pet guardianship is appointing someone to look after your pets in the unlikely event that you pass away before they do.

According to Epilogue Wills, only 7% of pet owners have a plan for their pets in case of death or incapacitation.

Incapacitation is when a pet owner cannot care for their pet for health reasons.

Epilogue Wills states over 8 million dogs in Canada, with 41% of households who own one dog.

That’s nearly 50%, and of that amount, only 2.6% believe that having pet guardianship in place is necessary.

Although it’s relatively straightforward, the difficult part is finding someone who will take your pet.

When selecting a person to look after your pet, consider who would be the best fit based on your expectations.

For example, will the person walk your pet twice daily as you do?

Even if you think you know someone, it’s essential to talk with them first, so they understand the undertaking of your pet.

When you create a legal Will, you can include your pets in the Will and who will take care of your pet upon death.

Epilogue also recommended naming a backup beneficiary if the person you named passes away.

They also state not to include your pet’s name if you get a new pet after losing a pet.

Even if you have a legal Will and want to include pet guardianship, you can return and do so.

Here’s what a basic pet clause can look like in your Will provided by Epilogue:

I give my pet [cat/dog/bird/other] to [main beneficiary’s full name].
If [primary beneficiary’s full name] predeceases me, or if [primary beneficiary’s full name] renounces this inheritance because they are unwilling or unable to provide a home for my pet, then I designate [alternative beneficiary’s full name] as the alternative beneficiary for my pet

It’s often wise to review your legal Will to see if anything in your life has changed since you drew it up.

Epilogue is the only online Will platform in Canada started and run by experienced estate planning lawyers.

You can also preview your documents before you pay with flexible payment options.

What Happens If You Don’t Address Your Pet In A Will?

If you don’t have a Will and die intestate where the pet becomes part of the estate, a judge will name what to do with the pet.

A court judge will decide who takes care of the estate, including the property and pets.

The judge will go down the family line, starting with a spouse who inherits the pet 100%.

From there, the judge will look at your children and living parents.

According to Epilogue, brothers and sisters will inherit everything equally if no one can take the pet or estate.

When no brothers or sisters are available, it gets passed down to nieces and nephews, followed by cousins to inherit your assets.

Pet Stewardship vs. Pet Guardianship

There is a distinct difference between pet guardianship and pet stewardship.

When you draft a Will, your pet is part of a “property”; however, you can name a specific person to care for your pet in your estate plan.

Pet guardianship is when a pet owner leaves their pet to a guardian to look after in a legal Will.

You might consider a neighbour, friend or family member who agrees to care for your beloved pet.

Pet stewardship is when someone is willing to take your animal into their home as foster parents until a permanent home.

You can also call your local humane society to see if they have a pet stewardship program.

Ottawa Humane Society, for example, has a pet stewardship program to help you with the process.

The Ottawa Humane Society Pet Stewardship Program ensures that upon your death, your companion animals are adopted into loving homes that are best suited to their needs.

If you have chosen someone for pet guardianship, it’s only fair to leave them a gift or set up a pet trust fund.

The monetary gift should care for your pet’s needs to help the new owner financially.

A trust fund left for your pet can be used for numerous reasons, although the list is not exhaustive.

  • Pet Insurance
  • City Licence for the pet
  • Pet Food
  • Yearly shots during routine veterinary visits
  • Pet toys and accessories
  • Emergency Vet Visits
  • Pet Surgery
  • Boarding Fees when and if needed
  • End-of-life care

The idea is to thank the person with pet guardianship so they can focus on loving your pet.

Your Pet Is Part Of The Family

There hasn’t been a time when we haven’t considered any of our pets part of the family.

We had only had our kitten for a month when I nearly killed him, and the tears flowed.

Instant connection to a pet is so profound that it doesn’t sit well when something happens.

Pet owners should consider pet guardianship and pet insurance for their furry friends.

After reading this post, I hope you consider looking after your pet in the future if you pass away before them.

Discussion: How many of you reading this today have considered pet guardianship?

You can find all this information on the Epilogue website if you have any questions.

Disclaimer: Epilogue does not provide legal or professional advice, such as accounting or tax advice.

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