What to do with your exotic pets after your death

The BBC recently reported that the number of exotic pets rescued by the Scottish SPCA has increased by almost three quarters in five years but that there are insufficient new owners to rehome them. So, if you are the proud owner of, say, a Bearded Dragon, called Sheila how do you ensure that Sheila is taken care of if anything were to happen to you?

Bearded Dragons, like other exotic pets, are a long term commitment just like owning a dog or a cat but they can be seen as a bit of novelty and on your death may not be considered to be significant. Would your residuary beneficiaries want a Bearded Dragon and all that its ownership entails? In much the same way that it is possible to gift your dog or cat to someone in particular you can make the same provisions for your Bearded Dragon to ensure its swift transfer to a suitable home. Bearded Dragons are considered to be “chattels” for the purposes of distributing an estate, and if they are given in a Will the gift can be honoured immediately on death by the executors and there is no requirement to wait until the Grant of Probate has been obtained.

If your beneficiaries do not wish to keep Sheila, your executors may decide to donate her to a sanctuary (with the beneficiaries’ consent) or sell her. Bearded Dragons do not have an “open market value” per se, they are worth what someone wishes to pay for them. A healthy adult sold with all the paraphernalia such as the vivarium, heat lamps, UV Lamps might be expected to achieve in the region of £200 if sold on one of the many websites dedicated to the second hand exotic pet market.

It may prove helpful to your executors if you create links with local clubs, sanctuaries or even pet stores who could be contacted on your death with a view to the animals being rehoused swiftly, even if this is a temporary measure until the beneficiaries can create the right environment to care for them.

In the meantime, consider preparing a care pack for your executors detailing how to go about caring for your unusual pet to ensure it is looked after in the same manner to which it is accustomed. Your note should be placed with your Will and amongst your paperwork to ensure it doesn’t go unnoticed.

If you need advice about making gifts in your Will, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.