When Karl Lagerfeld died in February at age 85, he was mourned in the fashion world. Lagerfeld had a unique image, and part of that image was his ever-present Birman cat, Choupette.
Forbes’ recent article, “Why One Of Karl Lagerfeld's Legacies Might Be Estate Planning For Your Pet.” reports that as an arbiter of style, Karl Lagerfeld was always clear and concise in his wishes. That can be seen in how he often spoke about his death. In April 2018, in an interview with Numero he stated, “There will be no burial. I'd rather die ... I've asked to be cremated and for my ashes to dispersed with those of my mother… and those of Choupette, if she dies before me.”
After Lagerfeld’s death, Choupette continues to be a star. She has become an icon in her own right, because of the love lavished upon her by her owner. With an Instagram following, a coffee table book and a modelling career, this cat will likely continue her pampered existence. However, the designer’s death raises a key concern in estate planning today: the care of a pet when someone dies.
Like Lagerfeld, many people see their dogs, cats, and other animal friends as members of the family. Therefore, it’s only natural that they be part of the estate plan. Since Choupette lived a lavish lifestyle while Lagerfeld was alive, it’s presumed that he likely made the necessary arrangements for his kitty in his estate planning.
A pet trust is pretty straightforward: in your estate plan, you can create a trust that coordinates the care and maintenance of your pet. Like all trusts, there will be a trustee who manages the funds and a caretaker who takes care of the pet. The custodian can request money and the trust specifies the client’s hope that those funds be used by the custodian for the benefit of the pet.
A complicated facet of a pet trust is to consider the care and maintenance of the pet. In Choupette’s case, she lived a life of extravagance, so Lagerfeld probably funded the trust at a level to make sure this lifestyle can continue.
However, for most, there needs to be some formula to fund the trust. This amount often is based on the type of animal and its past and projected future needs. Some pet owners consult with their veterinarian to determine an appropriate amount for the future care needs for their dog, cat or other pet.
In addition to the monetary needs, many people know that there’s a need for the pets to see family members they knew. Some pet owners have planned for visitation of the pet by adult children and sought assurances from their children and other caretaker beneficiaries that they’ll follow instructions to care for the pets for the rest of their natural lives.
When the pet finally dies, the trust ends and the caregiver can be the beneficiary of the remaining funds for taking care of the pet so well.
Reference: Forbes (February 20, 2019) “Why One Of Karl Lagerfeld's Legacies Might Be Estate Planning For Your Pet”