It's well-known that Americans are crazy about their fur-friends, and spend an estimated $52 billion on pet care annually. Some pet-owners go even further than that. Apparently it is becoming quite common that pet owners write their wills to include some money to care for their furry friends. According to the Washington University School of Law, between 12 and 27 percent of people actually leave explicit instructions for a pet when they die, and pet “trusts” are now addressed specifically in the laws of 39 different states. Most trusts are relatively small and the dollar amount fairly reasonable, but some of the rich and famous, like in other areas of their lives, tend to go overboard for their pets when they die.
Here are some of the most outrageous stories of Pet Heirs that we could find.
Leona Helmsley and Trouble
Leona Helmsley was known as the Queen of Mean, and she also had her share of problems with properly paying her federal taxes. Her reputation for treating employees badly extended to her family; she disinherited two grandchildren, but left $12 million in a trust for her aptly-named Maltese, Trouble.
A judge later reduced the total to $2 million, but that was plenty of money to let Trouble live out the rest of her life in luxury. She lived at the Helmsley Sandcastle in Sarasota, FL, where the hotel's general manager cared for the dog. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on her care annually, for food, grooming, and full-time security, because of the death threats that Trouble had received. The dog passed away in 2010 at the age of 12, and the remaining money went to the Helmsley Charitable Trust.
Drew Barrymore and Flossie
In 2001, Flossie barked unceasingly until Drew and her husband, Tom Green, woke up in the middle of the night to find that their house was on fire. Because Flossie saved their lives, Drew had official paperwork drawn up, and in 2002, Flossie became the heir to the $1.3 million Beverly Hills home.
Maria Assunta and TomassoWhen the wealthy widow of an Italian property multi-millionaire died in 2011 at the age of 94, she left $13 million to her precious cat, a stray she had rescued from the streets. Assunta had originally intended to leave her fortune to an animal welfare association, to whom would also fall the responsibility of caring for Tomasso. But she was unable to choose an organization that she felt would care for Tomasso properly, so she instead left the money to her nurse, who had no idea of the amount of money that her client possessed.
Carlotta Liebenstein and Gunther IV
The richest pet in history, however, was the pet of a German countess, who died in 1991 and left $372 million to her dog, Gunther III. Gunther III died soon after his mistress, however, and the millions in turn went to Gunther IV. The dog reportedly has a personal maid, a chauffeur-driven limo, and a house in Miami that once belonged to Madonna.
Oprah and her Dogs
Oprah Winfrey, whose net worth is estimated at nearly $3 billion, has reportedly set aside $30 million for the care of her animals after she passes. Betty White is another famous TV star who has set aside $5 million for her pets.
Patricia O'Neill and Kalu
Kalu the chimp was once the richest pet in the world, after having been left $65 million from Ms. O'Neill's estate in Cape Town, South Africa. She also had 30 dogs and 11 cats, all rescued, who would be cared for by the trust. However, in 2011, Ms. O'Neill discovered that the money had been stolen, leaving a mere $100,000 remaining.
Michael Jackson and his pet chimp, Bubbles
Everyone knows about MJ's pet chimp, Bubbles. When Michael Jackson died of an accidental sedative overdose in 2009, he reportedly left $1 million for Bubbles, to cover his care for the remainder of his life. However, in truth the will did not provide for the chimp, and Bubbles now lives in an animal sanctuary in Florida.This article was written by Claude Clemént, a finance professional who spends his free time writing about taxes, investment and economy in his own blog, the ExceleratorsQuiz.