Wednesday 24th April 2024

Should you be allowed to leave your millions to a cat – or indeed anyone at all?

So, Karl Lagerfeld’s cat is in line for at least a slice of a £150m fortune after the fashion designer died this week.

Choupette the cat is a pampered pet. She has two personal maids – the long-suffering Francoise and Marjorie – eats at the table and luxuriates in her own bedroom suite complete with surround sound and her own iPad.

Lagerfeld proclaimed her the love of his life and lamented not being able to get married to her, given that marrying animals is frowned upon.

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So perhaps it’s not so surprising that Choupette is widely expected to be a major beneficiary in Lagerfeld’s will. If so, Lagerfeld will by no means be the first to favour an animal in his will. A bunch of cockatiels were left $100,000 alongside detailed care instructions by Manhattan socialite Leslie-Ann Mandel in 2015, for example.

Some well-endowed pets have even been able to pass their fortunes along to their own “heirs”. A few years ago, a German Shepherd named Gunther IV was estimated to be worth $370m as the latest in line for an inheritance enjoyed by several generations of pooch.

On the whole, people don’t really approve of leaving large wads of cash to animals. Some countries even ban it altogether.

The fortune left to the original Gunther, worth $80m, had been bequeathed by a German countess, Carlotta Liebenstein, in 1991.

On the whole, people don’t really approve of leaving large wads of cash to animals. Some countries even ban it altogether – Lagerfeld himself said it was a good thing he wasn’t French.

When Leona Helmsley, the American hotelier, left $12m to her cat, whose name was Trouble, in 2007, cutting out two grandchildren altogether, the cat got all sorts of abuse. Death threats, kidnapping threats, the works. Thankfully, a judge later ruled the inheritance excessive and cut it down to a more sensible $2m.

Being serious, it does seem a little grotesque to leave millions to a cat when so many actual human beings in the world are still living in poverty. Should it even be allowed?

Aside from bringing their owners a little joy, pets haven’t exactly done much to earn it (although, to be fair, Choupette did make her owner a tidy $3m in 2015 alone by starring in commercials for German cars and Japanese cosmetics).

But then many people who inherit vast amounts of wealth have been similarly idle and useless.

It’s been pointed out that if Donald Trump had invested the millions he received from his father in the 1980s in tracker funds and then sat back on a sun lounger for the following few decades, he would be worth about four times as much as he is today with a trail of failed companies and gaudy buildings in his wake.

One does wonder if the money might have been better spent on, say, welfare or schools or even someone’s cat come to that.

Indeed, ardent socialists argue that there ought to be a total ban on inheritance altogether so as to ensure a more level playing field for the next generation via a 100% inheritance tax.

Inheritance tax was only ever meant to be a sort of temporary “emergency” tax designed to help pay for the war.

Logical as this argument may be, it seems a tad extreme and could, of course, lead to people squandering their wealth – or not bothering to amass it at all – if they can’t pass it on to their progeny. That’s just not how humans roll, as attempts at communist living over the years have proved time and time again.

At the other extreme, many (mostly rich) people think inheritance tax is the most evil of all levies, and that it ought to be abolished altogether. It was, after all, only ever meant to be a sort of temporary “emergency” tax designed to help pay for the war.

Proponents of being allowed to leave everything you have to whoever (or whatever) you like cite “wealth creation” and trickle-down economics thereof as being of benefit to society. Personally, I think the Trump example blows that one out of the water.

Whatever happens, I do hope someone is watching the lovely Choupette’s back in the aftermath of the Lagerfeld will-reading.

An old friend of mine once got rid of a feral cat which was terrorising his south London neighbourhood by stuffing it in the boot of his car and dumping it on the other side of the M25. Let’s hope those next in line for Kaiser Karl’s fortune don’t have similar ideas.

Nina Montagu-Smith

Journalist specialising in Money, business, economics and communications. Remoaner, big time. Saboteur-in-chief.

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