How to write pets into your will

Don’t trust your pet with just anybody? Make a conditional gift.

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From the November 2013 issue of the magazine.

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Q: I’m worried about who will take care of my fox terrier after I’m gone. How do I ensure that she’s provided for, as quite frankly, I don’t trust my son to do this.

—A.S., Montreal

A: There are few legal options to ensure your pet is cared for in the event of your illness or death, says Ottawa lawyer Michael Rappaport. “Under common law, it’s difficult to provide for a pet in a will. Pets are regarded as property, and property can’t own property.” Your best recourse is an informal arrangement in which you’d find a caregiver and make a handshake agreement, says Rappaport. If you want the arrangement to have legal teeth, make a conditional gift to the caregiver in trust. For instance, if you arranged to have someone look after your dog for four years, money could be gifted to them by the trustee after the contract is satisfactorily completed. “You just hope the caregiver will fulfill their requirements,” says Rappaport.

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