Considering the majority of people reading this will be pet owners, the idea of bequeathing money and property to animals after death mightn't be met with such surprise. Apparently, the number of people factoring pets into their wills is on the rise, especially amongst the rich and famous.
According to the Animal Legal Defence Fund, making provisions for pets has become increasingly popular in the last decade, with owners leaving money, trust funds, property and entire estates to their furry family members!
But people are not only bequeathing their assets to their own pets; the number of us donating to animal charities, shelters and to adopted strays has increased so much in the last century that today, making provisions for the less fortunate is commonplace.
For those who are the sole carer with no one to entrust their pets to, leaving a portion of their assets to ensure their pet's continued care makes perfect sense. In fact, we are so devoted to our animals that roughly 1.5 million of the UK plans to leave money to pets in their wills.
However, it is the ones that go above and beyond to provide for their pets after death that I am most interested in; the ones bequeathing family fortunes, jewels, estates, luxury holiday homes and who knows what else to the house pet, slighting their expectant family members in favour of the dog, cat or chicken!
Here we take a look at the top 5 “extravagant pet settlements” of our time:
1) Alexander McQueen – despite the fashion designer’s enormous wealth, McQueen left a meagre (I say in jest) £50,000 to his pet bulldogs to maintain them in the lap of luxury after his death. More generously, McQueen bequeathed £100,000 each to four charities, two of which included Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Blue Cross.
2) Mr and Mrs Gill – the millionaire couple made headlines after deciding to leave £2 million of their fortune to the RSPCA. Outrage followed when the Gill family learned of this, with the couple’s daughter taking them to court! She claimed her mother would never have agreed to such a bestowal had she been of sound mind.
After a lengthy battle (lasting four years), Christine Gill was awarded her parent's estate when the court ruled her mother had been coerced by her husband into leaving the entire fortune to the charity. Following the ruling, many people were understandably up in arms about the disregard shown to the couple’s final wishes and were suspicious of the daughter’s motive.
3) Miles Blackwell – in 2000 the publishing mogul bequeathed £10 million to Gigoo, his hen. Gigoo must have made quite an impression on Blackwell - either that or she laid very scrummy eggs.
4) Oprah Winfrey – no, you have not missed the news of her sudden demise. Oprah is still very much with us and making no secret of her intention to leave $30 million to her pet dogs after her death. Oprah has always been a great lover of animals and shamelessly puts her dogs first in the line of inheritance.
5) Doris Duke – the tobacco heiress who, without contest, holds the record for the most extravagant pet settlement of all time (surely!?) On her death in 1993, Duke left $100 million in trust to her pet dog, Minnie.
At death, the heiress’ fortune was estimated at $1.3 billion - a sizeable sum that perhaps justifies the extravagant bequest. Although the will was contested many times, the court ruled that the $100 million trust fund was entirely legal, making Minnie the richest dog in the world.
While we might not all be millionaire tycoons with the means to give our pets such exuberant lifestyles after our demise, we are well within our rights to leave our pets a legacy, no matter what or how small, to honour their companionship throughout life. If you have any thoughts on this discussion, please share it with us! Feel free to email me directly with any further questions and/or suggestions for future blog posts: [email protected]
Written by: Hannah Dyball