How to look after your horse in your will

  • The thought of what might happen to your beloved horse or pony should they outlive you can be very distressing. But there are things you can do to ensure your horse’s future — and one of those is to write them into your will.

    “It is advisable to make separate provisions in your will for your horse unless you are happy for him to pass along with the rest of your estate,” says Caroline Hedges, private wealth practice director at Bond Dickinson law firm.

    “Key considerations include who the horse should pass to, whether they are able and willing to take him on and how the ongoing costs will be met.

    “Usually it is advisable to discuss your wishes with the potential beneficiary in advance. Remember that a horse is both an asset and a liability.”

    It’s also important to make sure that your will is up to date and that you have chosen your executors and trustees carefully.

    “These will be the people giving immediate effect to your wishes as set out in your will and separate side letter, including ensuring safe transport of your horse to his new home and transfer of his passport to the new owner,” says Caroline.

    You also need to consider whether any provisions should refer to a specific animal or whether it should apply to any horse owned at the date of death.

    Leaving behind a business involving horses such as a yard or stud farm is different from a recreational rider wanting to make a provision for their horse and would need to be dealt with differently.

    “Remember to consider all the peripheral matter such as tack, other equipment, accessories and even the horsebox or trailer, and whether these should pass along with the horse itself,” Caroline adds.

    When considering the cash sum to pass with the animal, this will obviously depend on how you estimate this cost for the rest of the horse’s natural life, based on where and how it is likely to be cared for, with an allowance for future vets’ fees and other unforeseen circumstances.

    You also need to consider whether an additional sum for your beneficiary as a “thank you” for taking responsibility is to be included in that legacy.

    “A direction to your vets’ practice to disclose your horse’s records to the new owner would be useful and this can be kept with your will,” advises Caroline.

    What are the ways that provision in a will can be made?
    1. An absolute legacy to a named beneficiary — this would be a gift of the animal and a cash sum to a named beneficiary.

    2. A legacy to your executors together with a side “letter of wishes” — this would provide a gift of your horse and a cash sum to the executors of your will together with a “letter of wishes” setting out how the executor should deal with both.

    3. A legacy to an animal welfare charity — if you do not know anybody to whom you can leave the horse, an option is to leave the horse, plus a cash sum to an animal welfare charity coupled with a request that the charity finds a suitable home for the horse.

    Important changes
    If you have already made a will that includes your horse, new rule changes are coming into play that may affect you. “Many wills contain gifts of ‘personal chattels’ — which has a specific legal meaning including jewellery and personal effects — and at the moment includes horses and other pets,” Caroline explains. “However, the statutory definition is changing and horses will no longer be included in it and existing wills may need to be reviewed in this context.”

    Read the full article about how to look after your horse in your will in the 29 May issue of Horse & Hound

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