Pets are considered part of the family in many Canadian households. Pet guardians often assume that they will outlive their pets, but what happens when pets outlive their guardians? No pet guardian wants their loving companion to be left with nowhere to go or inadequate care upon their death. When drafting wills, pet guardians are becoming increasingly focused on involving their pets. While in Canada you can specify a child as a beneficiary in a will, the same cannot be done for your beloved pet. Animals are considered personal property under Canadian law, and as such cannot be the direct beneficiary of a testamentary gift. Rather than assume a loved one will care for your pet upon your passing, you can ensure your pet will receive the care they deserve by formally including them in your will.

There are several ways you can formally ensure your pet will be cared for upon your passing. First, you can make a testamentary gift of your pet in your will. This involves gifting your pet to a specific caregiver, rather than directly gifting money to your pet. Normally, money will be included for the beneficiary to use to cover costs associated with caring for your pet. This simple option is very common in Canada as it makes clear your wishes for your beloved pet’s care.

Another less common option is to enroll your pet in a pet foster program within your city. For instance the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) has a Pet Stewardship Program whereby pet guardians can bequeath their pet and a sum of money to the OHS in their will.[1] The OHS will then place the pet in a loving home and will monitor them to ensure they receive the care they deserve for the remainder of their life.

Finally, the notion of a pet trust has become increasingly popular in recent years due, in part, to news coverage of wealthy pet owners leaving their beloved animals with millions in a trust. In Canada, a pet trust is allowed under the common law, though there are many important considerations to keep in mind based on which province you are located in. For instance the perpetuity period, the appointment of trustees, and tax considerations may influence whether a pet trust is the right option for you and your pet. The lawyers at Gartner & Associates are knowledgeable about estate planning regarding pets. Our team can help you choose the best estate planning options for you and your beloved pet.

Another important question to consider is: what happens if a pet is left out of a will? This can lead to disputes regarding custody among family members. The team at Gartner & Associates are trained mediators with extensive experience resolving animal-related disputes. Our lawyers can help you reach a settlement that is in the best interests of the pet and everyone involved.

In order to avoid uncertainty and possible disputes involving your pet’s care upon your death, the team at Gartner & Associates can work with you to ensure your pet is always cared for as they deserve. A carefully drafted will can make all the difference for your beloved pet. For more information about estate planning for your pet or for dispute resolution services, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone at (416) 849-0944 or by email at



[1] Ottawa Humane Society, “Pet Stewardship: How to Care For Pets In Your Will”, (accessed 14 May 2019), online: Ottawa Humane Society, <>.



Animal Law has many aspects. The links below lead to discussions of common issues and of the expertise Gartner & Associates can offer you if you are facing such issues.

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