How can I make sure my dogs would be looked after if I passed away?

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I am a pensioner and live alone with my two lovely dogs. Recently I fell ill, which gave me quite a scare.

What would happen to my dogs if anything happened to me and I was no longer able to look after them? How can I make sure they would be looked after?

Linda McKay of This is Money replies: As a nation of pet lovers, it’s surprising that half of all UK pet owners have not thought about what will happen to their animals should they outlive them.

People over 60 are the least likely to make provisions for their pets, according to research by over-50s specialist firm Saga, with 39 per cent believing their animals will be inherited by their next-of-kin.

But relying on next-of-kin can put them under a great strain they might not necessarily want.

The average lifetime cost of owning a dog is estimated at £17,000 according to a recent survey, and almost a quarter of those faced with inheriting a loved one’s pet said they would choose to give it away or have it put down.

One way to avoid financial and practical strain is to make a provision in your will.

It is a good idea to think about who you would like to look after your pet should you pass away, and discuss it with them to make sure they are happy to do so.

Food, kennels, and vet bills cost money and as the dogs get older these costs may escalate if they become ill.

You can organise an appropriate sum of money to be placed in a trust to ensure the pets are looked after in perpetuity.

A discretionary trust is a good option with a set amount of money gifted to the trustee (the new owner of the pets).

The trustee would have the flexibility to use the money until the pet passes away at which time the trust would end and any money left pass directly to a named beneficiary.

It is best not to name your pets specifically so that you do not have to update your will if they pass away before you or you have new pets.

It is possible to name in your will the person whom you would like to look after your pets and to leave them a sum of money for this, rather than setting up a trust.

However leaving a pet to someone in a will – even if you make financial provisions – does not oblige them to care for the animal after your death.

So how much to bequeath? This will depend on the breed of the dogs, their age and lifestyle, plus existing diet and veterinary care.

You may also need to consider continuing pet insurance.

It is also worth making a note of your pet’s habits, dietary requirement, medical history and anything else you think someone looking after it may need to know.

The Saga Pets Left Behind Executor form offers a good outline of the type of details you may wish to note down.

Another thing you may want to consider arranging a Lasting Power of Attorney.

This would mean that if you become ill or incapacitated and you’re unable to make financial decisions, your loved ones will be able to access your accounts, pay bills and make decisions on your behalf.

Among other things, this would help with provision for the pets such as arranging temporary care or paying vet bills.

Source: How can I make sure my dogs would be looked after if I passed away?