Leaving your estate to pets

They say that dogs are man’s best friend and a recent article in the Independent highlighted just how accurate that sentiment can be. When Nashville businessman, Bill Dorris died, his Will stated that $5million was to be transferred into a trust for the care of his beloved border collie Lulu who was to be looked after by his friend Martha Burton. Ms Burton stated that Mr Dorris “really loved the dog” and she didn’t think that she and Lulu could spend $5million but that she would “like to try”.

Lulu is not the only lucky pet to receive a generous legacy in a Will. Other supposed legacies include:

  • Majel Barrett-Rodenberry (widow of Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry) left $4million in trust for their dogs and an additional $1million for a domestic employee to care for them.
  • British publisher Miles Blackwell left £10 million to his pet hen Gigoo.
  • Heiress Gail Posner left assets worth $11million to her three dogs. Her only living son Brett Carr was left only $1million.
  • “Queen of Mean” business woman Leona Helmsley left her Maltese “Trouble” $12million. A judge reduced this to $2million. It was reported that Trouble needed a full time bodyguard after death threats were made against the tiny dog.
  • Talk show host Oprah Winfrey has purportedly written $30million into trust for her dogs
  • German countess Karlotta Leibenstein left $80million to her German Shepherd Gunther III. When Gunther III died, his offspring Gunther IV inherited the estate which had then grown to $200million.
  • Actress Betty White is purportedly due to leave £3million to her golden retriever Pontiac
  • Fashion designer Alexander McQueen left around £50,000 to his pet dogs; Minter, Juice and Callum along with £100,000 apiece to charities including Battersea Dogs and Cats home.

When benefitting a pet in a Will (whether a small legacy to a person for care or a more complex arrangement) it is important to take full advice and consider the implications of any such gift.

Rebecca Dixon is a solicitor in the private client department at Barker Gotelee, Suffolk solicitors.

Personal Solicitors Suffolk – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk