Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reports that a cat in Rome has inherited about 10 million euros. That’s some cat heir! But wait. This can’t be right, can it? Can animals really inherit money in Italy? What about in America?
Pets definitely can’t inherit anything in the United States as animals are considered property and not separate legal beings (which we’ll talk more about in a bit). But digging a little deeper into the sensational Italian headline, it becomes clear that Italian Maria Assunta, who died at age 94, left her entire estate to a woman named Stefania, the nurse who took care of her.
Now Stefania is to take care of Tommaso the cat using the funds of the deceased woman’s estate, which includes a villa, several apartments in Rome and Milan and land in Calabria, the southernmost region on mainland Italy.
Only the best tonno (tuna) for Tommaso from now on!
But back to the concept of animals in estate plans. In the United States, for those who would like to make sure their animals are taken care of, we have a legal instrument called a pet trust. Pet trusts have been around for many years (remember Doris Duke’s $100 million trust for the care of her dog Minnie?), but now even more states are explicitly sanctioning their validity and tweaking provisions, making them an increasingly popular option for animal lovers.
A pet trust allows an animal’s owner to arrange for the care and maintenance of the animal should the owner become incapacitated or die. The grantor of the trust can specify a caretaker as well as set aside as little or as much money as he or she would like for the care of the animal.
Pet trusts can offer enormous peace of mind to animal owners — two-thirds of whom in America consider their pets to be family members.
For more information, check out LegalZoom’s Pet Protection Agreement services.
Have you planned for your pet’s care after your death?