Is it possible to leave property to a pet in a will?

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It is not uncommon for people to find themselves in the twilight years of their life to worry that their pet may outlive them.  People in these circumstances will naturally worry about who will take care of their pet after their death and wish to provide the necessary assets to ensure that their pet can continue to live a comfortable life even after its owner’s passing.  However, it is not possible to leave assets to a pet through a will in Japan.  Japanese probate laws mandate that the recipient of assets from a will must be a “person.”  Furthermore, pets are treated as “things” under the probate code and can be inherited like other property but cannot hold property by themselves.

Recently, in order to provide for their pet after death, some people have started to draft wills containing conditional bequests.  For example, the pet owner may draft a bequest to an acquaintance on the condition that he or she feed and walk the pet every day.

Of course, enforcing these conditional bequests can be difficult since they will need to be acted upon after the pet owner’s passing.  Therefore, the pet owner should also appoint an executor of the will whose job it will be to ensure that the conditions of the bequest are being upheld.

If you have any questions about probate in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.