The cats (and dogs) that got the cream: provision for pets in wills

 26 January 2024
The cats (and dogs) that got the cream: provision for pets in wills

For those of us who own a pet, they are very much part of the family. According to the PDSA in their 2023 survey, of UK adults:

  • 53% own a pet
  • 29% have a dog - approx. 11 million pet dogs
  • 24% have a cat - approx. 11 million pet cats

Many of these owners might be shocked to learn that the theft of a pet is currently covered by the 1968 Theft Act, as pets are viewed as possessions in law.

All this is set to change if the Pet Abduction Bill continues its speedy progress through parliament. The Act will make stealing dogs and cats a specific criminal offence, known a “pet abduction”. People convicted of this offence could be fined or imprisoned for up to five years. As Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said,

"The unlawful taking of pets is a callous crime and it's right that perpetrators are brought to justice"

Why we're interested in the Bill

So why are Panthera Estate Planning taking an interest in this Bill? It could have ramifications for those wishing to provide for their pets in their will, so their beloved pets are cared for after their death. This is because some see the Bill as progress towards recognising pets as individual living creatures, not possessions.

Can pets inherit?

At present you cannot leave a bequest to your pet, as "possessions" are not able to inherit. Instead, you need to set up a system whereby your pets are provided for in terms of finance and daily care.

  • You can set up a Pet Trust whereby trustees are legally responsible for the bequest and how it is used to provide for your pet/s.
  • You can appoint a Caretaker who is a person you trust to look after your pet. In effect this person inherits your pet and a sum of money to look after it.
  • Some charities offer a "Home for Life" scheme whereby they will take on the care of your pet as part of your bequest to them.

For more details of making provisions for your pets in your will, see our blog:

The ultimate celebrity cat?

Celebrities love their pets, so much so that the pets themselves can become stars. Some can even become celebrities in their own right, such as Choupette, the much-loved cat of the late designer Karl Lagerfeld.

“Choupette is a social media "influencer" with over 250,000 followers on Instagram and Lagerfeld claimed that she made $3m in one year during his lifetime.”

US rock musician Jared Leto even dressed up as the cat for the Met Gala 2023, where the theme was the late designer himself. Lagerfeld is thought to have Choupette $1.5 million in his will, and that the cat now lives with Lagerfeld's former housekeeper.

Celebrity pets and their "inherited" millions

Many celebrities and high worth people have made considerable provision for their pets in their wills.

  • Singer Michael Jackson left $2million for the care of his chimpanzee Bubbles, who now lives at an animal sanctuary.
  • Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, set up a $4million trust fund for their dogs, plus an extra $1million for an employee to look after them.
  • Comedienne Joan Rivers divided her $150million fortune between her daughter, her grandson and her dogs.
  • Fashion designer Alexander McQueen left a more modest £50,000 in trust for his dogs. He also left £100,000 to animal charities.

Celebrity pets on Instagram

A number of celebrity pets have their own Instagram account, and some have many thousands of followers.

  • Demi Moore's tiny chihuahua Pilaf
  • Paris Hilton's latest dog, teacup chihuahua Gizmo
  • Singer Katy Perry's dog Nugget
  • Champ, owned by actor Mark Wahlberg
  • Star Wars star Mark Hamill's rescue dog Millie
  • Gary the Frenchie, owned by the late actress Carrie Fisher and now living with her daughter.

Want to set up provision for your pets in your will?

Contact us. As animal lovers ourselves, we are happy to help.

« Return to Paul's Blog

During our initial discussion Panthera (Paul) fully explained the Will making process. We were made aware that our assets could be exposed to various risks such as Care Costs. Panthera (Paul) advised on how we could protect these assets by setting up Family Trusts. Having decided to go down this route Panthera (Paul) provided all the legal documentation in a timely manner despite having to work within the constraints of Covid-19 restrictions.

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