Leaving Your Estate to a Pet – Is It Possible in Canada?


Animals have been prominent in newspaper headlines over the past week. A cute monkey in a coat wandered freely in a Toronto-area Ikea. In New Zealand, driving dogs passed a doggie driving test, navigating a modified car around a race track live on television. It turns out that animals are not all that different than people.

Pet owners shower their pets with love and affection. It is not surprising that, in the event that they pass away before their pet, these owners want to ensure that the pet is taken care of. As wills and estates lawyers, it our job to make sure the owner is able to do that, but how? Although there is legislation in the USA that expressly permits trusts for pets, there is no such legislation in Canada. That does not mean it cannot be done.

A pet owner cannot leave property directly to his or her pet under a will because, according to Canadian law, pets cannot own property. There are other ways to accomplish the task, however. In a will, a pet owner can create a trust that provides funds for the pet’s care. The beneficiary of the trust should be the person who will be the guardian for the pet if the pet owner passes away. The pet owner then chooses a trustee who will administer the trust. The trustee will be required to make distributions from the trust fund to the beneficiary who will be required to ensure that the pet is properly taken care of.

Of course, the guardian should be someone who the pet owner trusts. A person who has a pre-existing relationship with the pet would be ideal. Once this person is selected and agrees to accept the responsibility, the trust can be created and the pet owner can rest easy.