Pet in the event of death

What happens to the testator’s pets when the testator passes away?

In the event of death, succession is governed by law or by a disposition of property upon death (testament/inheritance contract). Third parties may be appointed as heirs or as legatees with assets. If several heirs wish to have a pet allocated to them, the new provision of Art. 651a of the Swiss Civil Code stipulates that the pet shall be allocated to the party who is best able to care for the pet in terms of animal welfare. This regulation only applies to pets. Valuable breeding or farm animals for which the allocation is made by means of a legal provision (Art. 611 para. 1 of the Swiss Civil Code – drawing of so-called “lots”) are therefore not covered. If, however, there is no heir wishing to take over the testator’s pet, it shall be sold or given away, with any proceeds being divided among the heirs as part of the estate.

Can pets be heirs?

As animals do not enjoy any legal capacity, they are also not capable of inheritance and therefore cannot be heirs or legatees. A donation to an animal upon death has previously risked being considered nonsensical and challenged by an heir. The prevailing opinion is that a donation to a pet in the event of death is considered a requirement on the heir or legatee to adequately ensure the animal’s welfare. A person or institution subject to such a requirement must therefore take in the animal in question or place it with a suitable third party. The costs for feeding and caring for the pet are then settled by the inheritance or bequest.

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