A Burmese cat owned by fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld is expected to inherit a share of the $300 million estate, following the death of the fashion designer at the age of 85, according to CBS News in “Karl Lagerfeld’s cat to inherit a fortune, but may not be richest pet.”
While it is no longer unusual for pet owners to leave an inheritance to ensure the care of their pet, what is unusual is this cat already has an income of her own, appearing in ads for cars and beauty products. She has nearly 250,000 followers on Instagram and is an ambassador for Opel, the French car maker. She is also the subject of two books. Choupette has had her own line of makeup for the beauty brand Shu Uemura.
Lagerfeld was a German citizen, but he and Choupette were residents of France, where the law prohibits pets from inheriting their human owner’s wealth. German law does permit a person’s wealth to be transferred to an animal.
There are three approaches that Lagerfeld might have taken to ensure that his beloved cat would be assured of her lifestyle, after his passing. One would have been to create a foundation, whose sole mission is to care for the cat, with a director who would receive funds for Choupette’s care.
A second way would be to donate money to an existing nonprofit and stipulate that funds be used for the cat’s care. A third would be to leave the cat to a trusted individual, with a gift of cash that was earmarked for her care.
It is not uncommon today for people to have pet trusts created to ensure that their furry friends enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, after their humans have passed. Estate laws in the U.S. vary by state, but they always require that a human have oversight over any funds or assets entrusted to a pet. Courts also have a say in this. There are reasonable limits on what a person can leave to a pet. A court may not honor a will that seeks to leave millions for the care of a pet. However, it has happened before.
Real estate tycoon Leona Hemsley left many people stunned, when she left $12 million for her Maltese dog. In 1991, German countess Carlotta Liebenstein left her dog Gunther IV a princely sum of $80 million. To date, Gunther remains number one on the “Top Richest Pets” list.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances. It can include making sure your beloved pet receives good care. You can contact our office today with any questions you may have or to schedule your consultation.
Reference: CBS News (Feb. 21, 2019) “Karl Lagerfeld’s cat to inherit a fortune, but may not be richest pet”