Be Like Karl Lagerfeld: Protect Your Pets When You Die

The fashion world mourned when Karl Lagerfeld passed away in February, but after they had come to terms with Mr. Lagerfeld’s passing, many breathlessly asked, “What will happen to Choupette?” Choupette was Mr. Lagerfeld’s Birman cat, and a celebrity in her own right. She was Lagerfeld’s muse, inspiring some of his creations and even earned 3 million euros meowdeling for two projects. There is even an Instagram account where her fans follow her (304,000 of them by today’s count).

Plan to Take Care of Your Pet

It is no surprise that Mr. Lagerfeld had the foresight to leave some of his $200 million estate to the care of Choupette. But whether in France like Choupette or close to home here in California, money and property may not be willed directly to a pet, because pets, for better or worse, are still considered property themselves. But that doesn’t mean that Fluffy, Fido or Choupette must be left out in the cold. There are a few ways that people can plan to have their pets taken care of after they are gone.

Let’s look at your options for your pet’s care here in California.

Informally Arrange with a Family Member to Take Fluffy When You Die

Certainly, getting an agreement from a friend or family member about taking your pet when you die is better than doing nothing. But keep in mind that It is stunningly commonplace for family to just dump the deceased person’s pet on the street or at the closest shelter, often a kill shelter. If you make informal arrangements, you give Fluffy no protection.

Name a Guardian in Your Will

You could go a step further and name a guardian for Fluffy in your will. In other words, you would actually will Fluffy to that person.  If you do that, you will want to also indicate a second choice in case Fluffy’s designated guardian is incapacitated or otherwise can’t take Fluffy. You could bequest some money to the guardian for Fluffy’s care, but merely naming a guardian will not insure they will use any money you give them to benefit Fluffy.

In fact, naming a person in your will to take Fluffy really gives your pet no more protection than making an informal agreement with that person. The only difference is that your desires are memorialized, and your family will have no doubt where you want Fluffy to go. But it will do nothing to guarantee Fluffy is kept off the mean streets or out of the shelter.

Create a Trust

Creating a trust takes more time and money than your other options but is the only way to give your pet real protection when you die. In California, a trust for the care of your pet can be legally enforced. You are not just depending on the integrity of Fluffy’s guardian and hoping for the best.

You can leave detailed instructions that must be followed and money for your pet’s food, vet bills, grooming and anything else they need. As just one example, if Fluffy has a sensitive stomach, you can dictate that she be fed specific prescription cat food that is kind to her digestion. If your instructions are not being followed, any interested person can sue to have them enforced including animal welfare non-profits. You can also designate who you would like to look in on Fluffy from time to time and has the right to bring such an action. The guardian is not just left to their own inclinations.

Protect Your Pets

Pets are family for many of us. If you would like to discuss setting up a trust to protect your pets when you die, please call us. We are happy to set up a trust to protect your beloved pets or just give you more information about it.