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Succession Laws In India For Pets

Succession Laws In India For Pets

Many of us think of our pets as family. But, what happens to them if you pass away? Read on to find out.

Team Yellow



min read

July 25, 2023

If you have a pet that is as good as a member of your family, then this article is for you. Over the last few years, animal cruelty has been rightly called out and many of us think of our pets as family. But, what happens to them if you pass away? Can they be protected by law, or given an inheritance?

Can A Pet Be A Beneficiary In A Will Or A Trust?

To understand if this is legally possible, let us first look at the concepts of a Will and a Trust. A Will is a legal declaration in which the Testator (person making the Will) pens down his intention and wishes with respect to his property, which comes into effect post-demise. Under a Trust, you repose confidence in another person (the trustee) to take care of the beneficiaries named in the Trust. So, the key question to be answered is does your pet really qualify as a Beneficiary? Let’s find out.

Meaning of “Beneficiary”

For the purpose of a Will, the term Beneficiary has not been defined under the Indian Succession Act, 1925. However, relying upon law dictionaries and several judgements, a Beneficiary can be understood to mean ‘a person to whom a legacy is given.’ Now we need to check whether a pet falls within the purview of the term ‘person’. Under laws in India, a person has been broadly defined to mean an individual, company, firm, HUF, or association of individuals. Hence, for the purposes of inheritance under a Will, a pet cannot be considered a Beneficiary.

Now let us look at the term ‘Beneficiary’ as defined under Trust laws to see if pets can be made Beneficiaries under a Trust. The Indian Trusts Act, 1882 states that every person capable of holding property may be a Beneficiary. The important criteria is the capacity to hold property. Since a pet cannot hold property by itself, it is not possible for it to be a Beneficiary.

In other words, Indian law considers animals themselves to be property, hence they cannot directly receive any inheritance.

Inheritance Of Pets: An International Perspective

In the United States, almost all states have enacted laws which recognise pet trusts and allow pets to be named as Beneficiaries. However, it is not this simple. To address the practical difficulties, in a pet trust in USA, individuals are appointed as Trustees and the duration of the Trust is tied to the demise of the concerned pet(s). The Trust is usually structured in such a way that, along with the pet, a human Beneficiary is also included. Post the demise of the concerned pet(s), the remainder Beneficiary (which is an individual) inherits the legacy. One advantage of such a structure is that the human Beneficiary can sue the Trustee for breach of duty in case the pet is not properly taken care of.

Recently, Spain introduced a new law, ie Law 17/2021, which came into effect in January 2022. This law recognised pets as family members, and not merely property. As per the new law, though pets cannot directly inherit assets, you can choose the heir who will inherit your pet. This law was enacted to impose stringent legal remedies to address the rising cases of animal abuse in Spain.

However, till today, in most countries, including Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, clear laws governing inheritance of pets are absent and hence recourse to law becomes a challenge in case the pet is not properly looked after.

Succession Planning For Your Pet

Looking at the scenarios above, one fact cannot be overlooked – you must identify a trusted person who would take care of your pet. Alternatively, you can also identify an animal association, or an NGO, that will be able to find it a new home. This can only be possible if you write a Will, or create a Trust, and name the person/organisation who should take on this responsibility. Through either of these instruments, you can also allocate some money to the individual or organisation to go towards your pet’s upkeep.

Make sure you have also checked to make sure that the new owner is willing to look after your pet. It may also be a good idea to appoint a successor, in case the new owner passes away or is not in a position to take care of your pet.

The Bottom Line

If taking care of your pet is something you are concerned about, a Will/Trust is the only way to plan for their safety and wellbeing under current Indian law.

Get started on your Will-making journey to protect your pets now.


Team Yellow


min read
July 25, 2023


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