A family pet or the beneficiary of your father’s entire estate…

Wills & Inheritance | 17 May 2019 0

When German designer Karl Lagerfeld sadly passed away earlier this year, the media reported that ‘many’ people were concerned about the fate of his beloved pet cat Choupette.

Well, it seems they should not have been as media reports suggest that she has been named in Lagerfeld’s will. The feline could be set to receive a portion of the estate, which is estimated to be worth more than £150 million in total.

So, we asked Theo Hoppen, our inheritance law expert to join us on the blog to look at what provision you can make for pets in your Will in England & Wales.

“I often get asked by clients whether it’s possible to leave money or property to pets in a Will. The short answer is ‘no you can’t as any gifts you make in your Will must go to a human beneficiary however, it is possible to indirectly provide financial support for a beloved pet.

You can create a gift in your Will leaving your pet to an appointed person in the same way that you might leave a family heirloom to someone.  This is because the law regards a pet as a chattel, i.e. an item of property other than freehold land, which means you can gift it to someone else.  If no one is able or willing to look after your pet, it can be left to an animal charity to look after.

When advising clients, I always recommend that they speak to the person who they want to care for the pet, so they can check that they are willing to look after them.

People can also consider providing the nominated pet owner with a cash sum or set up a Trust to cover the cost of caring for the pet. A sensible move is to make any cash gift conditional that they look after your pet when you die.  Unfortunately, they are not legally obliged to spend the money on the animal and can use the money as they ‘see fit’.

Like the Karl Lagerfeld story, you often read about people leaving their fortune to their pets but it’s not possible in this country to leave a cash gift directly or transfer assets to a pet. (It is reported this can be feasible under German law.) Thankfully this is the case, as unsurprisingly, an animal cannot open a bank account or manage the money.

If you would like to provide provision and care for your pet, you will need a Will or update your existing one to ensure they are looked after to your wishes. You can get make a quick enquiry here or use the contact details below.”

Theo Hoppen wass a Senior Solicitor in our Harrogate office. He advises on all aspects of family law with a specialism in representing clients in relation to claims against estates under the Inheritance Act.

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