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Leaving a bequest to a pet

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2019 | Estate Planning

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld is famous for his influential work over a long and storied career before dying on February 19 at age 85. He continues to make news from the grave with an extravagant but not surprising bequest to his Birman cat, Choupette, of a portion of his estate estimated to be worth between $150 and $300 million.

Lagerfeld has gone on record many times about his love for Choupette and had even bemoaned the fact that human beings were not able to marry animals. Nevertheless, he provided the feline with a staff of two maids and driver as well as Dyson Supersonic hairdryer and an iPad. Choupette also had a Twitter account and a fashion line and did photo shoots.

Lagerfeld is certainly not the first celebrity to leave money to their animal friend: Michael Jackson left $2 million to Bubbles the chimpanzee and real estate magnet Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog, Trouble (the family went to court and had $10 million redistributed to charities and grandchildren).

One need not be a celebrity

These extravagant pet bequests are obviously outside the norm, much like the pet owners. Nevertheless, the idea bequeathing testamentary gifts to a pet is not that absurd. Pets are dependants who become part of the family and provide much happiness and comfort to their humans. It is not uncommon for estate planners to inquire about pets and whether there are or should be arrangements for pet dependants when there is death or incapacity. Typically this can include:

  • A bequest or pet trust to pay for the animal’s care
  • Instructions for the care of the animal including food, veterinary care, boarding, recreation, shelter, and even travel
  • Bequeathing the animal to a particular individual with accompanying funds to offset the cost of the animal’s care
  • How remaining funds will be distributed upon the pet’s passing

Ensuring your pet is properly cared for

These arrangements ensure that your dog, cat, horse or even hamster are cared for after you have gone just as it would be done for a human dependent. There may be concerns that other family members would not care for the animal to the standard they are accustomed to, or perhaps there is the fear that the animal would be displaced, abused or given up for adoption. With the help of a knowledgeable estate law attorney, these arrangements give decedents peace of mind of knowing that you may be gone, but the animal will continue to lead a happy and healthy life.