Pets are considered property and nothing more in the eyes of the law. Plan accordingly.

Pets are considered property and nothing more in the eyes of the law. Plan accordingly.

by | Mar 27, 2024 | Wills & Estates

In Ontario, pets are considered property so the same rules of guardianship of your children do not apply. In fact, when it comes to your estate your beloved cat is considered as no more valuable than your couch, or your sweet dog is only as important as your dining room table.

A recent article in the news has highlighted how the courts see pets. From, “A legal tussle over a dog has cost both sides thousands in legal fees — and plenty of heartache — while highlighting how the law treats pets in estate battles.”

Leonard suddenly passed away. Leonard owned a dog, Rocco Junior. Leonard’s common-law partner at the time of his death, Aliesha, took the dog the day after Leonard passed away.

Aleisha was not mentioned in Leonard’s will, however, family members and a past spouse were mentioned.

The courts have ordered Aliesha to turn over a dog that she says was gifted to her by her common-law partner to the estate beneficiaries. Leonard, who passed away suddenly, did not mention Aliesha or the dog in his will and therefore, the beneficiaries are stating the dog should be a part of the deceased’s estate.

For everyone involved, this has been a costly battle. If Leonard had stated explicitly in his will his wishes for the dog, this could have been avoided.

This example brings up important issues we need to highlight. 

  1. The law does not see married couples and common-law couples as the same. According to the law, common-law relationships are not treated the same as married couples in Ontario. If your common-law partner dies without a will and has not named the surviving partner a beneficiary on their assets, the survivor will be omitted from the estate and all assets will be divided amongst children and the deceased’s family. We have more information on common-law partnerships on the blog.
  2. Your will should address all your belongings and assets. Having a will that addresses all your assets and belongings can help your loved ones avoid a headache and heartache after you are gone.
  3. We understand pets are considered more than property to you. Did you know you can have a pet guardian assigned in your will so that after you are gone your pets can be cared for exactly how you wish? We have more on that here.

Your will is your toolkit for planning for the future and for your loved ones.

In British Columbia, there have been changes to the law. According to, “Instead of being treated as property, like a table or chair, courts there now decide an animal’s ownership based on a person’s ability and willingness to care for it, on any relationship between the pet and a child, and risks of animal cruelty.”

While there might be changes to the law in the future about how pets are treated in an estate, our best advice would be to make your wishes explicitly clear in your will.

There are no dumb questions when it comes to your estate planning. We are here to help!

McMurter & Associates has you covered.

McMurter & Associates has been providing estate planning services for over 30 years in the Durham Region. If you have any questions about your will and estate planning, we are available Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm.  Email: info@mcmurter Phone: 905-666-9200