Italian cat becomes hairy heir
A former stray cat in Rome joined the ranks of the world's richest animals when its owner left it $13 million.
It's hard to imagine an heir more indifferent to his huge inheritance than Tommaso.
The 4-year-old Italian black cat -- a former stray on the streets of Rome -- is apparently now the richest cat in the world, according to the International Business Times.
Tommaso inherited an estate worth $13 million when its owner, Maria Assunta, died two weeks ago at the age of 94, The Telegraph reported. Assunta was the widow of a property tycoon, and had no children or living relatives.
Assunta's estate included a large bank balance and property in Rome, Milan and Calabria, but Tommaso's care was entrusted to the nurse who cared for the cat's owner in her final months. In fact, because Italian law doesn't permit animals to inherit property, the attorney for the estate gave the cat and his fortune to Assunta's former nurse.
Tommaso now lives with Assunta's caretaker, Stefania, at an undisclosed location outside Rome. "I had no idea the signora had such wealth," she told The Guardian.
Other famously wealthy pets
Tommaso is the latest in a long line of pets that became millionaires upon the death of their wealthy owners.
Leona Helmsley's Maltese, Trouble, was probably the most famously wealthy pet when his owner died in 2007, leaving $12 million to the dog. The dog itself passed away in June, at the age of 12, and the money reverted to the Helmsley Charitable Trust, The Street reported.
Other rich animals include Alexander McQueen's dogs ($82,000) and Michael Jackson's chimp, Bubbles ($1 million). Oprah Winfrey's dogs are set to inherit $30 million, according to Woman's Day.
However, none are as wealthy as an Alsatian dog named Gunther IV, who inherited a fortune worth about $372 million from a German countess, according to The Guardian.
Increasing popularity of pet trusts
An increasing number of pet owners are seeking to make provisions for their pets in their wills, according to Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law.
"It is something that has gone from almost a comical thing to something that people take very seriously and want…. People are sometimes more interested in taking care of their pets than their families," Beyer told the Chicago Tribune. Post continues below.
According to Beyer's website, ProfessorBeyer.com, a trust might cover:
- Food, toys and cages
- Medical care
- Compensation for a caregiver
- Guidelines for how the caregiver should document expenses
- Instructions for disposal of the pet’s remains
Most states have enacted pet trust laws, but specifics vary by state. Some impose funding limits, and a few limit the duration of the trust to 21 years -- a potential hardship if the deceased's pet is a parrot, which can live up to 90 years.
A list of 44 state pet trust laws is available on the ASPCA website.
Alas even someone as wealthy as Helmsley can't always get what she wants when it comes to leaving money to a pet. Though she famously left the bulk of her estate to the dog, a judge reduced the $12 million bequest to about $2 million. In addition, the judge overturned her directive that the charitable trust be used for animal welfare, and allowed the trustees to distribute Helmsley’s assets to any charities they chose, according to the Washington University in St. Louis newsroom.
Furthermore, Helmsley had requested that Trouble be buried in the mausoleum beside her and her late husband, Harry Helmsley, but by law, animals cannot be buried in human cemeteries.
What will happen to your pets when you die? Have you considered creating a pet trust to care for them?
More on MSN Money:
I don't think anyone should have the right to tell you what or who you can leave your estate to, if i wanted my pet to be taken care of, that's my business. Hope Leona is spitting up at that judge. Don't understand why he thought he had the right to overturn her wishes, it was HER MONEY.
My point being is that people who truly believe in those causes don't need to wait until someone rich dies to comment about how they should have willed their money; if you believe in a cause, donate.
I had a black cat in my family tree. Maybe I'm related!?
(The fire department came and got the cat out of the tree, but so what, maybe I'm still related)
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