Can I leave a gift to my pet in my Will?

June 7th 2023

In 2019 Karl Lagerfeld died leaving behind his beloved cat Choupette. Choupette is one of the most famous cats in the world and has a social media following of over 250,000 followers. This year Lagerfeld was the theme of the Met Gala and not one, but two celebrities paid tribute to his legacy by dressing as Choupette!

When Lagerfeld died it was reported that he left Choupette $1.5 million in his Will, although the amount has not been officially disclosed.

With many of us having beloved pets this leaves many people considering can they also leave a gift to their pet in their Will? In legal terms, animals are considered chattels (property/personal belongings) and therefore cannot be left money directly. So, what options does this leave for pet owners?

The first option is to create a trust in your Will which leaves money for your pet to be cared for. You would choose a Trustees to manage the trust and ensure the funds are used accordingly. One issue with this is that trusts require a human beneficiary. A way of getting around this however is by creating a charitable trust, which does not have the same requirements.

A second option is to gift the pet and funds to someone you trust in your Will with instructions on how you would like the money used, and your wishes regarding the pet. This is not something that is legally binding so it is worth ensuring that if you choose this option make sure that the person you choose will follow your wishes!

Gifts to animals have in some cases led to family disputes. In the United States of America billionaire Leona Helmsley left her $8 billion estate on trust for her Maltese dog Trouble, disinheriting her grandchildren. The grandchildren challenged this decision on the grounds that Leona lacked mental capacity and won their case.

If you have a beloved pet and are concerned about what would happen to them after you’ve gone, our team can provide you with some sound, practical advice.

When Lagerfield died it was reported that he left Choupette $1.5 million in his Will