Do you have a dog, a cat, or some other type of pet that you consider part of your family? If so, you probably want to make sure he/she is taken care of if something happens to you. The rich and famous often feel the same way about their pets. As a pet planning attorney at German Law explains, however, you will probably be shocked at the inheritances that have been left to pets in the estate plans of the rich and famous.
- Carlotta Liebenstein, a German Countess, reportedly left her German Shepard named Gunther III $106 million when she died in 1992. The inheritance was managed by Trustees. By the time Gunther IV inherited the fortune, it had reportedly ballooned to $372 million! Gunther IV was even listed as the buyer of one of Madonna’s mansions in 2000.
- Patricia O’Neill, daughter of a British countess and ex-wife of Olympic medalist Frank O’Neill, added her beloved pet chimp Kalu to her Last Will and Testament, reportedly while her husband was away at the Sydney Games. A collection of over 40 animals, including Kalu, were to inherit $80 million, including a Cape Town estate. Unfortunately, for Kalu, a crooked financial advisor siphoned the socialite’s fortune down to almost nothing.
- Oprah Winfrey has long been known as an animal lover. She once said that if her home were to catch fire, the one personal possession she would grab is a photo album of her five dogs. Reportedly, the megastar has set aside a $30 million trust for her dogs.
- Maria Assunta, the childless widow of an Italian real estate investor, rescued 4-year-old stray cat Tommaso from the streets of Rome. Worried about her declining health, Assunta searched for an organization that would care for Tommaso if something happened to her. When she couldn’t find one, she decided to just gift her $13 million fortune to him upon her death in 2011.
- Ben Rea, a British antique dealer left his $12.5 million estate to Blackie, the lone remaining feline from a group of 15, and three cat charities.
- Leona Helmsley made news headlines in 2007 when she bequeathed $12 million to her dog Trouble while also completely disinheriting her two grandchildren. Ultimately, a judge reduced Trouble’s inheritance to $2 million, gave $6 million to the two grandkids, and the rest went to charity.
- Gail Posner left a total of $11 million to her three dogs, including $3 million in trust funds and her $8 million mansion. Here estranged son contested the bequests, claiming she was unduly influenced by household staff – the same staff who also received $27 million after Posner’s death in 2010.
- Miles Blackwell and his wife had a track record of caring for animals, having established the Tubney Charitable Trust in 1997 to protect farm critters. After she died in 2001, the childless publishing magnate left Gigoo, a hen, $10 million when he died just three weeks later.
- Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the widow of Star Trek creator Gene, set up a $4 million trust for their dogs plus added an additional $1 million or a caretaker. Shed died at the age of 76 in 2009.
- Michael Jackson, the King of Pop who was known for being eccentric, comes in at number 10 for leaving his chimp Bubbles $2 million payable upon his death. Fears that the chimp’s increasing aggression might be a danger to Jackson’s newborn son, however, forced the relocation of Bubbles to an animal sanctuary.
Protecting Your Pet
Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to leave behind a millions dollar inheritance to ensure that your beloved family pet is well cared for after you are gone. A modestly funded pet trust can usually provide for your pet in the event of your death or incapacity and ensure that someone of your choosing manages the inheritance you leave your pet.
Contact a Grand Forks Pet Planning Attorney
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about pet planning North Dakota, contact a Grand Forks pet planning attorney at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.