Puppy love: Bizarre bequests to pets

From houses in Miami to land in Calabria, we look at some extravagant and bizarre bequests left to some very fortunate pets.

A dog can be your most loyal companion, a cat your cute and furry friend; but there are some people who believe that their pets deserve a reward bigger than most of us can dream of. We take a look at some of the fortunes that were left behind to pampered pooches and coddled cats.

Maria Assunta, the widow of an Italian property tycoon, was so taken up with a stray cat found on the streets of Rome that she decided to leave it US$13 million when she passed away in 2011i. Tommaso, the fluffy black cat, is now the owner of properties in Rome, Milan and Calabria with some extra cash on the side to fulfil all his salmon fantasies.

Some overseas pet owners make a living a dog's life desirable.

Another animal lover, German Karlotta Liebenstein, left behind over a million Deutsche Marks to her German shepherd, Gunther III, in 1991ii. Due to prudent financial management, Gunther III's inheritance increased in value and was subsequently left to Gunther IV who is reported to have purchased Madonna's old Miami estate and a rare white truffle worth over £1,000iii at an auction in Italyiv. The pooch's current net worth is £224.6 millionv.

Oprah Winfrey, the world-renowned talk show host is an admitted dog lover too. So much so, that upon her death, her dogs are to be royally cared for. Hopefully, the hefty $30 million (USD) inheritance for her dogs will guarantee that her wishes are respectedv.

Australia: legal restrictions

While these international legacies might be excessively kind, these types of donations are only possible because of different laws in countries overseas. In Australia, however, there are more restricted options for those wanting to provide for their pets after they're gone. Under Australian law, pets are not capable of inheriting money or property and so you cannot leave a direct monetary legacy to themvi. If looking after your pets from the afterlife is something you wish to do, there are some options which you could opt for in your Will instead, for example:

In Australia there are options for those wanting to provide for their pets after they're gone.

Generous donations

International animal lovers are not the only ones who care about their pets. In Australia, there have been some who have donated thousands of dollars to the animal welfare cause in their Wills, illustrating a commitment to their favourite animals, even after death.

In 1928, George Mills directed his trustees to invest money gained from the sale of his estate in the construction of troughs- particularly horse troughs - in Australia, the British Isles, or any other part of the world where troughs were needed! He also asked that part of his fortune be given to animal welfare organisationsviii.

Edward Chester, a retired poultry farmer with a fondness for pigeons, left his residuary estate in 1972 to the Royal National Agricultural & Industrial Association. Chester's Will specified that the money should be used "to improve, breed, and race homing pigeons." His next of kin contested the Will and the trial judge agreed with them that the gift was not for charitable purposes. Unfortunately for Chester and the Royal National Agricultural & Industrial Association, the ruling was upheld in the High Courtix, x.

A pet can be your best friend and most loyal companion, and it's instinctive as an owner to worry about his or her welfare when you are gone. While there are great stories of bequests to pets in other countries, Australian laws require you to plan carefully if you want to ensure how your pet will be looked after in the future.

i Dolak, K., 2011, Woman Leaves $13M Fortune to Pet Cat, ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2011/12/woman-leaves-13m-fortune-to-pet-cat/

ii BBC News, 2000, Madonna's 'dog house', http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/833655.stm

iii Shortlist, The World's Richest Animals, http://www.shortlist.com/shortlists/the-worlds-richest-animals

iv Sharp, R., 2007, Super-rich furry animals: Four-legged legacies (and other pet payouts), The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/superrich-furry-animals-fourlegged-legacies-and-other-pet-payouts-463685.html

v King, D., 2009, £224m dog tops pet rich list, The Sun, http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2582533/224m-dog-tops-pet-rich-list.html

vi The Law Society of New South Wales Young Lawyers, Animal Law Guide NSW, p 23, http://www.lawsociety.com.au/cs/groups/public/documents/internetyounglawyers/420246.pdf

vii The Law Society of New South Wales Young Lawyers, Animal Law Guide NSW, p 23-27, http://www.lawsociety.com.au/cs/groups/public/documents/internetyounglawyers/023693.pdf

viii Love of Animals, March 17 1928, Northern Star, p. 5. Retrieved May 9, 2013, from http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/93666481

ixThe Canberra Times, 31st July 1974, p.7 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/110721773?searchTerm=Royal%20National%20Agricultural%20pigeons&searchLimits=

x High Court of Australia, Royal National Agricultural And Industrial Association V Chester And Others - (1974) 3 ALR 486