Can a person create a trust for the maintenance of their pets?

Date: Jan 03, 2012
Document Type: Newsletter

The bond between a pet and an owner can sometimes be so strong, that some people have actually named their pets as beneficiaries after their passing. Many of us have probably read or heard stories someone leaving instructions in their will for the maintenance of their pets, and some of us may have even guffawed at such a practice. However, the fact remains, that many people are rather quite attached to the pets and animals that they own, and there may even be a few readers who are wondering if gifts for maintenance can be made to their own animals. Does Australian law actually allow an animal to become a beneficiary? Yes, believe it or not, there are actual laws that deal with such matters, and truth be told, the laws are rather quite interesting.

Can I make a gift for maintenance of my pet?
The position in Australia is that for the most part, a beneficiary must be a person in order for the courts to decree performance. Furthermore, in order for a valid trust to be created, a gift must be made to a charitable body.
So in summary, Australian case law has generally ruled, that a gift must be charitable and drafted for the benefit of an actual person – rather than a gift for the maintenance of an animal.

However...all is not totally lost for animal lovers
Although case law may have by and large ruled against making a gift of maintenance for a pet, however, the law may not, prevent a person from theoretically providing for the maintenance of a pet in which they have an attachment towards.

In the event that an individual wishes that a particular person provide maintenance for their beloved animal, the provision should be drafted in such a way that it cannot be left for others – such as the person providing the maintenance of the animal – to change the conditions, therefore, potentially overriding the wishes of the person making the trust. So if you want someone to provide maintenance for your pet, always make sure you do so carefully.

There is no doubt that many of us will develop a close connection to pets or animals that have provided us with company. Furthermore, many of us will understandably want to provide adequate care for our cherished companions after our passing. However, the law in Australia is rather tricky, and the bestowing of a trust towards an animal can be rather complex and for the most part, may be not feasible.

If you have any other questions or concerns in regards to wills or estates, always seek the appropriate legal assistance.

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