Can I leave my estate to my pet?

There was significant press coverage last week following the death of the German fashion tycoon Karl Lagerfeld. 

Lagerfeld was a famous fashion designer, artist and photographer who was well known for his work with Chanel, Fendi, Tommy Hilfiger and other large fashion brands. Lagerfeld died in Paris on 19 February 2019.

Much attention has been placed on Lagerfeld’s beloved pet cat, Choupette who is reportedly due to inherit a large part of Lagerfeld’s £150 million estate.

Choupette, who lives a life of luxury, has become an icon in her own right and has accrued significant earnings from various add campaigns and from her prominent social media presence.

It is believed that if the proper legal steps are taken, Choupette may well inherit a large part of Lagerfeld’s fortune under German law.

In an interview in 2015, Lagerfeld sparked speculation that he had named his cat as an heir to his fortune when he stated “She [Choupette] has her own little fortune, she’s an heiress,”

Lagerfeld repeated the statement in an interview with Numéro in 2018 when he was asked to address the rumour that he’d named Choupette as an heir. He said

“Among others, yes ” before adding ,”don’t worry, there is enough for everyone,” which raised the implication that he had also made provision for family members or others that were close to him in his will.

Susan Ford, one of our contentious probate solicitors says:

“Under UK law, whilst it is common for testators to want to ensure that their pets are properly cared for, animals cannot hold assets or inherit money directly from an estate. In fact, pets are considered, for the purposes of a UK will, to be an item of personal property.

In practice, what normally happens is that a monetary gift would be made in the will to a family member or friend of the testator on the understanding that it will be used for the pet’s care. It is good practice for the testator to speak to that person first to ensure that they agree to take on responsibility for the pet or pets in question.

It will be interesting to see whether Lagerfeld has provided for his close family members in his will and whether a will dispute takes place in the future”.

If you would like information about disputing a will, contesting a will, probate disputes, or inheritance disputes, please contact our specialist contentious probate lawyers on 01902 424927. We offer a free initial free consultation and we can often act for clients who want to dispute a will or commence an inheritance dispute/probate dispute on a no win no fee basis.

Alternatively, please e-mail us at contentiousprobate@georgegreen.co.uk providing a brief summary of the issues you wish to discuss with us, along with your contact details.