Italian cat inherits €10m from owner

by Sarah Ashcroft

An Italian cat named Tommaso has become one of the richest animals in the world after its owner left her fortune to the animal. The pet inherited €10 million (£8.5 million) when 94-year-old Maria Assunta died two weeks ago.

Concerned about its welfare, the widow made a last will and testament leaving her entire estate to the four-year-old black cat. According to the Telegraph, she told lawyers to "identify an animal welfare association or group to which to leave the estate and the commitment of looking after Tommaso".

While the case is an unusual one, it highlights how important it is for people to make a will to ensure their wishes are heeded. Pets are increasingly figuring in wills, which could result in disputes if the documents are not drafted correctly, particularly if relatives are cut out in favour of animals or charities.

A recent poll from More Than suggested as much as £26 billion could be left to pets in the UK. John Ellenger from the firm noted: "Pet owners are naturally concerned about the long-term care of their pets and many are taking the necessary steps to make sure they are provided for in their wills."

However, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) says recent cases suggest courts are increasingly ignoring the wishes of people's wills. The organisation believes relatives are winning disputes when estates have been intended to be left to charity.

The society's director of philanthropy, Keith Johnston, said: "On the one hand the law has always said that you can leave your money to whoever you want, but you need to be aware that the courts are increasingly taking the view that relatives can be entitled to funds even where the will rules this out."

Anyone intending to provide for an animal must also be aware that gifts of money cannot be passed directly to pets, as they are considered in law as items of property.

Published on: December 13, 2011

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