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Can Pets Inherit? Understanding Legalities and Care After Owner’s Death

Navigating the Legal Landscape of Pet Inheritance and Welfare

Our country has a legal system different from the world across the Atlantic, but that does not mean that the beloved animal cannot be protected in the event of passing away. In short, you can put it in your will, but not as a direct heir.

When we welcome an animal into our home, we know that one day, the sad time will come to say goodbye. Usually, our beloved pets leave first, having, on average, a shorter life span than humans, but what happens when the owner has to leave this world first? Can their pets inherit? To whom are they entrusted? We explain this in this article.

Animals cannot inherit

Under English law, animals, although recognised as sentient beings, are legally regarded as movable property (like a piece of jewellery, for example). This means they do not have the legal capacity to inherit under English law. In other European and non-European countries, however, it is a possibility.

In England, pets are regarded as res, like objects, automatically becoming part of the estate upon the owner’s death. This means that the heirs, by accepting the inheritance, also accept the animals or animals owned by the deceased. In the event of non-acceptance of the inheritance, the obligation to maintain and care for the ‘orphaned’ animal falls to the municipality, which, as a rule, entrusts it to a kennel or refuge pending adoption.

Sentient beings and movable property

Animals, in the English legal system, are considered ‘movable property‘, res that can be the subject of fundamental rights (i.e. ownership) and negotiated relations (i.e. they can be bought and sold), but as ‘property‘ they cannot be holders of juridical capacity and, therefore, cannot be holders of rights and obligations, such as those deriving from an inheritance.

In a previous article, we saw that the English legal system also defines animals as ‘sentient beings‘, i.e., capable of feeling emotions and manifesting pain and sadness. This definition is fundamental to protecting their welfare and underlies, for example, the bans on animal experiments and the label ‘cruelty-free’.

Who inherits the family animal?

The solution is to make a will that makes them heirs indirectly. For this purpose, it is possible to identify a "human" beneficiary, for example, a family member or a trusted person, naming them heir of the assets that are intended to be allocated to the animal (or even more animals) and providing a specific clause, for create the constraint to use their value to look after them.

Heirs who do not want animals cannot refuse to inherit the deceased’s pet. In England, partial acceptance of the inheritance is impossible; either the entire share is accepted, including the pet that may be part of it or nothing. The heirs are, therefore, obliged to accept the deceased’s animals.
If you are concerned that your animals end up in loving hands, you can designate in your will someone you trust to take care of them.

Trusted persons or associations

It is possible to instruct another person or association in a will to look after the testator’s animals during their lifetime. It is also possible to make a legacy of a financial nature to the person or association named, which can be a sum of money, an asset or even a life insurance policy. In this way, it is not the animals who inherit directly but the testator who takes care of them.

How to make a will

You can write your will yourself or get professional advice if your will is not simple. It is possible to do so without cost: you must handwrite your will on paper, inserting your full name, date and signature.

For this particular form of will, which the testator himself must entirely handwrite, it is advisable to make two copies and leave one to a trusted person, a notary, or a lawyer so that one’s will is not lost in the time of need.

The will must indicate the beneficiaries and the assets bequeathed. Suppose you want to leave an asset of an economic nature to a person or association to care for your pet. In that case, it is advisable to indicate in the will that the beneficiary can benefit from the legacy on condition that they take care of the animals.

Pay attention to the size of the endowment because, in the case of direct heirs (spouse, children or parents), the amount of the bequest must always respect the legitimate inheritance quotas indicated by law.

Finally, it is possible to appoint an executor to check that the testator’s wishes are respected, failing which the defaulting beneficiary will be reported. In this way, the animals do not inherit directly but can be placed in good hands and provided with everything economically beneficial for their care.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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