Animal Beneficiary

Client is terminally ill. He has a modest estate (possibly £50,000 max if he can sell his lorry) no property owned, and he wants to leave all of it to his partner’s horse. I am minded to put his estate into a discretionary trust with a letter of wishes instructing his trustees (who will be his partner and his sister) to use the funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the horse, but if the horse dies or is no longer owned by the partner anything left goes to his children. His partner is on benefits and does not want or need any money from him herself. Just wanted a sanity check as not come across this before.
Many thanks
Lucy Langley
Bath Wills

How can someone on benefits afford a horse?!

A horse cannot be a discretionary beneficiary.

It is possible under English law to leave money in trust for a pet, provided the time limit for the trust is limited to perpetuity limits-possible issues with long lived tortoises!

Therefore it is possible to leave residue in trust to use the income and capital for the upkeep and care of a horse, with a gift over of anything left after its death to children.

However, one can see claims arising by the children, who may not like the horse.

Also, any money used to pay for the partner’s horse may well be viewed by the benefits’ office as money paid out for the benefit of the claimant, which could put the trustees in a difficult position for benefits fraud, particularly if the partner is a trustee.

Simon Northcott

My understanding is that an animal is not a legal person and so cannot be a beneficiary.

I believe the form of a trust for the maintenance of an animal would need to be in favour of a “person”, whether an individual or a company, and that person requested to apply the benefit for, say, the upkeep and maintenance of the animal. For tax purpose, etc., the beneficiary will be the recipient (a horse is not a taxable person!).

The way forward might be for the estate to be settled upon discretionary trusts. The partner and the client’s children/issue might, perhaps be the discretionary objects, with a letter of wishes indicating that during the lifetime of the horse the trust should be used for the upkeep and maintenance of the animal and, upon its death the trust terminated in favour of the children (or their issue if any have died in the meantime). The trustees can then decide to whom any payment might be made to “benefit” the horse.

Paul Saunders

Many thanks for both responses. The adult children like the horse their children ride it and there is an insurance policy pay out going to the sons, who know this is the plan.

Bath Wills

It is possible to have a trust for the maintenance of a specific animal or animals. In relation to private non charitable trusts this is one of two exceptions to the beneficiary principle. For a trust relating to a horse see Pettingall v Pettingall which was decided in 1842.

Mrs J E Bennell



Mrs Bennell is correct.- I seem to recollect coming across one in my working days

Apparently it would be a non charitable purpose trust.

You might llike to google ‘purpose trusts for animals’

Whilst a lot of the links relate to the USA you may find the following interesting


Andrew M Mortimer