The New Trust Fund Babies: Pets of the Super Rich

Trusts are being set up for pets so Fido doesn't lose his private chauffeur
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2024 12:25 PM CST
The New Trust Fund Babies: Pets of the Super Rich
Along with pet trusts, some owners are setting up "pup-nups" to clarify ownership.   (Getty / Yelizaveta Tomashevska)

Pets are a special part of the family, so owners often make plans in case they pass away first. But the uber-wealthy are predictably taking that a step further by leaving massive estates to their furry friends, ensuring they won't lose their doggie therapists and private chauffeurs. And, per the Messenger, it's not just cats and dogs being left sitting pretty—lizards, parrots, and horses are being set up for life, too. In all 50 states, pets are considered property, which leaves them out of wills (since property cannot inherit property). A workaround for this can play out in a few ways. Animals can be placed in sanctuaries or retirement homes, get adopted, or be left with a caretaker who will manage the pet's trust.

Trust, you say? The Messenger got the rundown of what it takes to set up a pet trust from Peggy Hoyt, who runs a nonprofit in that realm. Her cheapest tier starts at $150 (plus a $10 monthly maintenance fee), and requires $10,000 funding per cat, $15,000 per dog, and $50,000 per horse. Buying into it would guarantee the pet would end up with a new family or at an animal sanctuary. She plans to leave her million dollar estate (plus two additional properties) to her four horses, Vogue, Heaven, Sparkle, and Dash, and a mix of eight other cats and dogs (all with equally great names, but especially her Papillon mix, Darla Dinkle Queen of Tinkle). "You would plan for your children," she tells the Messenger. "In my case, I don't have any two-legged children—I just have the four-legged variety."

Darla Dinkle is among the growing number of pets that won't be left out in the cold by their wealthy owners. Designer Karl Lagerfield famously left a $1.5 million trust to his cat, Choupette, who Anna Wintour once described as an "extremely beautiful and bourgeois cat, who has two maids, a chef, a personal hairdresser, and many diamond necklaces." Real estate mogul Leona Helmsley set up her pup, Trouble, with $12 million, and per the New York Times, this sparked a different kind of trouble. The Maltese was given a security detail that ran $100,000 yearly after death threats were made against the millionaire pooch. (Tree Hugger has a rundown of pets that were left fortunes if you'd like to take a stroll down that particular lane).

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Trusts aren't the only legal assurances pet owners are setting up these days. Kristina Bergsten of the Animal Law Firm told People that her firm offers "pup-nups" to help handle custody issues when couples decide to part ways. Having these matters handled in writing is important, she says, because judges automatically favor whichever party has their name on paperwork, such as pet adoption agreements. "Courts do not like custody agreements when it comes to pets," she says, "and they do not like to enforce them because there's not really laws yet that exist for them to determine what is in the best interest of the pet as they have for children." (These are the trendiest cat and dog names).

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