After legendary German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld died last week in Paris at the age of 85, industry watchers quickly turned their attention to his beloved Birman cat, Choupette, who was always by his side.
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Lagerfeld, who was the creative director for Chanel, has said in the past that Choupette is an "heiress,” according to French magazine Le Figaro. Will she really inherit some -- or all -- of Lagerfeld’s estimated $200-$300 million net worth?
Although none of Lagerfeld's estate-planning details have been made public yet, it’s likely that Choupette will walk away a fat cat, says Valerie Duane-Dray, an international inheritance lawyer based in Hollywood, Florida. After all, Lagerfeld, who resided in France with Choupette, was without children of his own.
However, says Duane-Dray, since pets are seen as “property” under French law and therefore cannot legally receive an inheritance, that makes bequeathing a little more complicated. While Americans can legally establish a trust for four-legged friends (like when hotel heiress Leona Helmsley left $12 million in trust for her dogs, and nothing to several of her grandchildren), with restrictions varying by state,“this does not really exist in France.”
But there are other ways that Lagerfeld could have made sure his furry friend remains living in a style to which she was accustomed after he passed away.
“It’s more likely Lagerfeld either bequeathed money to an existing entity (such as a foundation or other type of non-profit organization), which would be in charge of the care of Choupette, or to a loving friend, who would be in charge of the care of Choupette,” says Duane-Dray.
And she thinks it is most likely that Lagerfeld did the latter.
“Giving your pet to someone you trust along with money to help take care of the pet is both safe and easy,” she said.
If this is the case, matters will only get more complicated. As who will get Choupette’s fortune when she passes on? After all, she was a money-making celebrity in her own right.
Choupette, who has lived a life of luxury since moving in with Lagerfeld in 2011, has amassed nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram and has earned $3 million through sponsorships and ad appearances. She previously served as an ambassador to German automobile manufacturer Opel, launched branded lines, and has been the subject of two books.
Vera Gibbons is the Founder of nonpoliticalnews.com which produces “NoPo” - a free daily newsletter that covers and curates non-political news only within Consumer/Personal Finance; Health & Wellness; Fashion/Beauty; Fitness/Diet.