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Pets and your estate plan

Joan Rivers left her $150M fortune to her daughter and among others… her dogs.

We are not too far off from Hollywood.

In Ontario, a pet is property and, therefore, forms part of the estate of the deceased. If there is no Will, the pet devolves, like other property, to the deceased’s next of kin in accordance with the provincial laws of intestacy.

If there is a Will, there may be provisions for the pet in the Will (what happens to the pet upon death).

Here is the major distinction from what Joan Rivers was purportedly able to do:

In Ontario, a gift to a pet is not valid because property (goldfish, for instance) cannot hold title to another piece of property (bank account, say). However, a cash gift in the Will left to a person who is to care for the pet (visits the goldfish and feeds it delicious food slivers) is perfectly fine.

Here are some other interesting facts:

1. A Will cannot direct that a pet be euthanized as this is contrary to public policy.

2. A trust for a pet established in a Will may be invalid on the ground that a pet is not an ascertainable beneficiary (no surprise there).

3. If one leaves a gift for a caregiver for the benefit of the pet, this gift can be challenged if the gift interferes with an entitlement of a spouse or a dependant.

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