With Karl Lagerfeld’s cat set to inherit a fortune, we are reminded of the need to be cautious to avoid “cat fights” in estate litigation.
When the news of Karl Lagerfeld’s death broke, thoughts soon turned to the artistic designer’s beloved cat, Choupette. Choupette is said to have two personal maids, be fed from silver dishes and enjoy a luxurious grooming regime. It comes with no surprise that Lagerfeld described Choupette as a "rich girl" and "heiress" in interviews.
While the contents of Lagerfeld’s Will has not yet been revealed to the public, Vogue estimates that the estate is worth over $380 million. It has been rumored for a number of years that Choupette is set to inherit his fortune, however it is unclear who is going to look after the pampered feline.
The "Cat Fight"
Although most Australian pets probably don’t require two maids like Choupette, nor stand to inherit the fortune of Karl Lagerfeld, with the RSPCA reporting around 62 percent of Australian households own a pet and Australian law allowing trusts to be established for domestic pets, disputes are likely to arise.
A dispute may occur if:
You leave all or most of your money to your pet
If your dog Coco is set to inherit a majority of your estate, chances are your Will may be contested. While a dispute like this is yet to occur in Australia, several celebrity Wills have been contested in US courts. For example, New York Hotel heiress Leona Helmsley’s set up a $12 million trust for her Maltese terrier, Trouble. When Helmsley’s Will was contested, Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Renee Roth ruled that Helmsley was mentally unfit when she executed her Will and reduced the trust to $2 million.
Providing for your pet in a poorly drafted Will
Disputes can arise if a Will providing for a pet is poorly drafted. In 2011, the Supreme Court of New South Wales was asked to rule on the proper construction of a Will and whether the trust which the deceased established for the maintenance of her animals was valid. Ultimately, the Court was not required to answer this question because the trust had failed from inception. The person appointed to care for the animals declined to do so. The Will did not allow for such a contingency and the Court was asked to consider how the funds which were destined for the trust were to be distributed.
Pet custody disputes
In addition to potential Estate Litigation pitfalls surrounding pets, pet custody disputes are also a growing problem in the family law sphere, with nearly one in 10 Australians having lost possession of a pet in a relationship breakdown.
How we can help
Whether your dispute involves a cat or your sister Kat, Slater and Gordon can help you by:
- Assisting you to contest a Will
- Taking away the stress and worry that comes with estate litigation
- Negotiating your best possible outcome
The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.