What will happen to my horse if he outlives me?

Although many horse owners at some time in their lives will have to make the tough and even heart-breaking decisions regarding the life and care of their equines, surprisingly, few horse owners make a decisive decision on what should happen to their horse in the event of their horse outliving them.

Should owners not make provision for their horses, there could be disastrous consequences for the life of their equine without them. Without the provision of a will, the horse will pass to whoever is entitled to inherit from the owner in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This will usually be a spouse, parent, child, sibling or grandparent. This could mean that the horse could end up being inherited by someone with no knowledge of how to go about caring for the horse or re-homing it.

Many horse owners are not aware of what provisions can be made for their horse upon their death or how to go about making these However, with the correct legal advice and understanding of the horse’s long term needs, it is possible for owners to make the right provision for them and their horse.

One option open to owners is to make a provision in their will leaving their horse to a specific person. Should the horse be left to a named individual it is vital that careful consideration is given as to who that named individual is, ensuring that they would be happy and willing to take the horse on and that they have the correct knowledge and understanding to care for the horse long term or to find the horse a suitable new home.

Horses can cost a considerable amount of money to care for long term, therefore, if the horse is to be left to a named individual, owners should consider whether they also wish to leave a monetary gift to that person to assist with the cost of the horse’s ongoing care.

It may be the case that the owner does not wish their horse to be left to a named individual but still wants to make provision and direction as to how their horse should be cared for should something happen to them. This can be done by way of a trust which appoints a trustee who is responsible to carry out the owner’s wishes for the horse.

A trust has a number of added benefits as it can be made to operate under either an owner’s will, which would come into force upon their death, or as a separate deed which could extend to providing provision for the horse during the owner’s life time in the event of sickness or incapacitation. In creating a trust, an owner can also provide for more than one horse and is free to make directions such as that their horse is to be sold upon their death, where any sale funds should go and give specific detail as to the allocation of funds for ongoing care. A trust can also dictate where any remaining funds held within the trust should go once the horse has passed away. In addition, a trust will provide for the succession of guardians for the horse. This offers security if the original trustee becomes sick or no longer wishes to act as a trustee for the horse as the owner can name ‘back up’ trustees to take over the horse’s care.

Although, for most owners, planning a future for their horse without them can prove upsetting and daunting, proper provision can also give an owner the peace of mind that their much loved horse will be properly cared and provided for should something happen to them.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Kieran Walshe

Partner - Head of Commercial Insurance and Head of Equine

As Head of DWF's Commercial Insurance team I advise on a range of high value and/ or complex litigation matters and misfeasance cases.