Things don’t always go according to plan. On the other hand, sometimes pet owners can get a bit creative when providing for their pets. Let’s take a look now at 3 famous cases involving pet trusts and distill important lessons from them.
David Harper and Red
David Harper, a wealthy, reclusive bachelor in Ottawa, Canada, wasn’t exactly famous during his life. In his death, however, he made headlines by reportedly leaving his entire $1.1 million dollar estate to his tabby cat, Red. Just to make sure his wishes were carried out, Harper actually bequeathed the fortune to the United Church of Canada under the stipulation that they take care of Red for him! The ploy worked.
Lesson learned: You can be creative in your approach to making sure your pets receive proper care after you’re gone. Let’s chat about your goals and wishes when it comes to your pets.
Maria Assunta and Tommaso
In a four-legged and furry version of the classic rags-to-riches story, wealthy Italian widow Maria Assunta rescued a stray cat from the streets of Rome and gave him a proper home and name: Tommaso. As Assunta’s health failed, she tried for several years to find an animal organization to entrust Tommaso. When no suitable organization was found, Assunta left the estate valued at $13 million directly to the cat in her will and named her own nurse as the caretaker. She passed away in 2011 at the ripe old age of 94, knowing her beloved Tommaso would be well taken care of.
Lesson learned: The best way to ensure the care of your pet is in writing, with a proper estate plan.
Patricia O’Neill and Kalu
Patricia O’Neill, daughter of British nobility and ex-spouse of Olympian Frank O’Neill, had designated a fortune worth $70 million to her chimpanzee, Kalu, and other pets, in her will – or so she thought. It was discovered in 2010 that the heiress herself was virtually broke, thanks to the shady dealings of a dishonest financial advisor. This story provides perhaps the most famous example of a pet trust gone dry while the owner is still living.
Lessons learned: You can only give away what you have. If caring for your pets after your death is important to you, make sure your financial plan is in line with your estate plan and that you’ve taken appropriate steps to oversee your advisors.
This article is the second in a series of articles. Read the first article in this series.