Following the news that fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld, passed away on 19 February 2019 it has since been reported that he has left some of his £153 million estate to his cat, Choupette. Roman Kubiak, partner and head of the market leading Contested Wills, Trusts and Estates team discusses the legal issues behind this and the implications.
While the rules vary from country to country, in England and Wales we enjoy what is known as freedom of testamentary disposition, which means that we are free to dispose of our estate however we see fit. Indeed, making provision for pets in a will is not uncommon and there are numerous stories of celebrities doing just that.
This freedom is, however, subject to certain protections to ensure that reasonable financial provision has been made for eligible parties, including certain family members and dependants.
In cases where reasonable financial provision has not been made, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 enables eligible parties to apply to the court to vary the distribution of an estate.
Eligible parties claiming under the Inheritance Act, with the exception of spouses and civil partners, are entitled to such reasonable financial provision as they can prove is necessary for their maintenance.
Spouses and civil partners are entitled to such financial provisions as is necessary in all circumstances, regardless of whether it is required for their maintenance.
Claims under the Inheritance Act are subject to a strict time limit, and must usually be presented to the court within six months from the date of the grant of probate or representation. If you think you may have a claim it is therefore important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.