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For tortoise, terrapin and turtle care and conservation


Making a Will is not a pleasant subject - especially when one is talking about one's own. Nevertheless it is important for the sake of one's family, friends - and not least one's pets. In this respect it is worth remembering that with long-lived tortoises that they are more likely to lose you than you them. You may recall Gilbert White's tortoise, Timothy of Selborne fame, outlived two of his owners, White's aunt and then Gilbert himself!

As a member of the BCG you may think that you would like our organisation to go on helping people like you to look after their charges as well as continuing with the battle for the protection and conservation of chelonia worldwide.

Many members have raised this subject with me over the years and I know other members of our Committee have also been asked about how to go about the process if you are inclined to help the BGG after your death and what to do if you want the BCG to re-home your pets when you are no longer in a position to care for them. I hope these few words of advice will help and perhaps prompt those of you who have not thought about the problem to give the matter some consideration.


First of all, may I suggest that it is worth the expense of getting a Will properly drawn up by a solicitor if you have not already done so. (If you do not already have a solicitor to advise you, most banks will offer this service through their "Will Clinics" or "Financial Advice Centres"; the bank will probably act as an executor too.) Home-made Wills are possible, of course, but with proper legal advice you can usually be sure that the Will is precisely and properly worded; the solicitor will also act as executor if you wish this. One thing about leaving money to the BCG is that above a certain amount your estate may be liable for tax; however any money you leave to a Registered Charity such as ours is not taxed.

How do I leave money to the BCG? There is a number of different ways and you will need to discuss these with your legal adviser. The following are just some of the ways you could leave some part of your estate to the BCG:

  1. As the residue of your estate, or a percentage of the residue, after your debts have been settled and the disbursement of any legacies you leave to other people (this is called a "residuary legacy")
  2. Your whole estate after your debts have been settled
  3. A specific sum (called a "pecuniary legacy")
  4. A specific item of value, e.g. jewels (called a "specific legacy").

The wording we suggest if you decide to leave something to the BCG is:

"I give............................. to the British Chelonia Group (Registered Charity No 1140830 - The British Chelonia Group, Causeway House, The Causeway, Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk, IP31 3AB) for its general charitable purposes and I declare that the receipt of a Trustee Director of the British Chelonia Group shall be a full and sufficient discharge for the said legacy."

If you have already made a Will you can add a section (codicil) based on the above wording.

MY PETS: The BCG has an excellent Re-homing Officer, one of whose functions is to try to find good homes for tortoises/terrapins when their owners can no longer care for them or after their owner's death if no other arrangements have been made or are possible. The Re-homing Officer keeps a register of BCG members who are willing to take care of additional pets and every effort is made to rehome them, if possible in the same area or locality of the UK. However it should be noted that the BCG cannot make an absolute promise to rehome animals and any bequest to the BCG must be subject to this proviso. Sometimes animals may be seriously ill, beyond hope of recovery, or there are simply not enough volunteers to accept additional chelonia (as is the case with Red-eared Terrapins currently). If, with this in mind, you decide to ask the BCG to re-home your pets in your Will, we suggest you use the following wording

"In the event of my animals (you can describe by species if you wish) surviving me I direct the British Chelonia Group shall as soon as it is notified of my death by my Trustees relieve my Trustees of the responsibility for my animals (tortoises/terrapins) and as soon as practicable thereafter endeavour to place such animals in suitable homes, the said BCG at all times being given absolute discretion to deal with the welfare of such animals as they see fit."

By the way, as your pets might incur unexpected expenses in veterinary bills, you may like to consider leaving a sum of money to go with the tortoises to the new owner to cover such eventualities.

You do not, of course, have to leave money to the BCG in order to avail yourself of this service of re-homing tortoises, etc., which is free of charge. If you have any legal queries on this matter, you should take them up with your solicitor or other legal adviser and NOT with the BCG.

Devised by R.P.Langton, Conservation Officer 1989 - 2008, assisted by the RSPCA Legal Department.

Revised 8th November 2015