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Can pets inherit from your estate?

Since Karl Lagerfeld’s death on 19 February there has been much speculation about the future of his beloved Birman cat, Choupette.

There are suggestions that the Burmese cat will inherit a share of Lagerfeld’s estimated £150 million fortune.

Newspapers report that such an inheritance could be possible under German law, if the cat were nominated as an heir through an association or foundation.

But what happens to someone’s pets under English law when the owner dies?

Domestic animals are legally classed as `chattels’; therefore, you can leave your pets to whoever you choose in your will.

Your pet itself, however, cannot receive an inheritance. Animals are not legal `persons`; if they do not receive the inheritance it is impossible for them to bring enforcement proceedings.

However, it is possible to make provision in your will to ensure that your pets are properly cared for after your death.

Katy Burgin, specialist wills and probate solicitor, advises: “A common way of doing this is to leave your pet to a named person together with a sum of money for its upkeep.

Your will can contain a clause that states the legacy is given on the understanding that your wishes will be honoured concerning the welfare of your animal.”

For more information about what you can and cannot include in your will, contact our wills and probate experts on 01302 320621.

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