21 Feb Could Karl Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette get her paws on the fashion icon’s £150m fortune?
The beloved pet cat of Karl Lagerfeld is reportedly in line to receive a share of the late fashion designer’s £150m fortune. The Birman, named Choupette, lived a pampered existence with Lagerfeld, since being adopted – reportedly having her own maids and bodyguards.
When asked if he would leave his fortune to his pet in an interview with the French magazine Numero last year, the designer said: “Among others, yes. Don’t worry, there is enough for everyone.” He added: “She has her own little fortune, she’s an heiress.” The 85-year-old, who headed up the fashion house Chanel alongside Fendi and his eponymous label, died on Tuesday.
- A look back at the Chanel shows as flamboyant as the clothes
His pet feline has her own Instagram account, Choupette’s Diary, which boasts more than 200,000 followers. According to French reports, Choupette may be entitled to Lagerfeld’s multi-million pound fortune if she had been nominated as his “heir”.
- But can a cat actually inherit a $150m fortune?
Barrister Samuel Okoronkwo Jr, who works for Mercantile Barristers, talks through the possibilities, in relation to English Law.
- How does it work if an animal inherits this sort of money?
The person making the will, “the testator”, should consider whether they want the animal to be cared for by a particular person. This could be a named beneficiary, a particular person benefiting from the will, or one of the executors of the will. This ought to be someone who is willing to take on the responsibility; and is usually a friend, relative, or someone else who may be familiar with the animal.
- How would a cat spend this kind of money?
It’s more likely the named beneficiary, or executor would be tasked with spending the money, rather than the cat. When this person is identified, a financial provision for the care of the pet can be made to the named beneficiary as a gift, subject to the laws on inheritance tax. The testator should consider whether they want to include a substitute beneficiary and details of the care the pet requires in a supplementary document usually referred to as a “letter of wishes”.
- Can a cat inherit $150m fortune?
On face value, no. For the purposes of a will, usually a pet is considered to be the personal property of the person making a will. Alternatively, working animals, for example farm animals, may be regarded as a business asset. So in effect, somebody may be inheriting the cat (and the responsibilities that go with it) rather than the cat inheriting $150m.
- Does someone have to oversee the inheritance?
A testator can also give one or more people financial provision for the maintenance of the pet using a “trust” limited to a certain period (usually 21 years) for the care of the pet. This may be used together with the letter of wishes so that the testator can provide details of the particular care the animal will need. Otherwise, the testator may want the animal to be cared for by an animal welfare charity, in this case such as the RSPCA, or the Cat’s Protection League. If this is what the testator prefers, the will can provide for this using a gift to an animal welfare charity of their choice.
- Can decisions like this be challenged?
Wills can be challenged for a number of reasons including, if it can be proven the will was forged; if the testator was not of “sound mind”; if they were forced into making a will they did not want or intend to; or if it was not made following requirements outlined in statute. It is very important to have evidence to prove these claims, especially if a claim is made after the testator has passed away.
- Who can the cat leave money to afterwards?
The cat will be unable to leave anything, as it cannot make a will. The testator may be able to make a provision for what happens to the money left to maintain the cat within the same will, once the cat dies. So in the case of the gift to the named beneficiary, the money would belong to that person once the cat dies.