Choupette – Karl Lagerfeld’s Cat may face a hefty tax bill

Karl Lagerfeld creative director of Chanel, Fendi and his own label, fashion designer, artist, photographer, and caricaturist; recognised for his signature style white hair, died recently of pancreatic cancer aged 85.

Choupette, Lagerfeld’s Birman cat who has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram is reported to receive a portion of his $200 million estate. When asked in interviews if he’d leave his fortune to Choupette, Lagerfeld said:

                      “Among others, yes. Don’t worry, there is enough for everyone.”

Lagerfeld isn’t starting a new trend as reportedly Michael Jackson left $2 million for the care of his chimpanzee Bubbles. Fashion designer Alexander McQueen left 50,000 pounds to his three dogs; Hotelier Leona Helmsley and tobacco heiress Doris Duke established trust funds for the carers of their pets.

I have posted before of pets being left bequests; Tommaso, a 4-year-old former stray cat from Rome was left Maria Assunta’s (the widow of a property tycoon), entire estate worth approximately $13million, to be distributed via her former nurse, Stefania.

Interestingly Tommaso was reportedly the third most wealthy animal on the planet preceded by Kalu the chimp, who was left $80 million and Gunther IV, who inherited $372 million from his “dogfather” Gunther III— yes, a dog — who was the companion of an animal-loving German countess and multi-millionaire Karlotta Liebenstein.

Gunther IV has expensive tastes his diet includes steak and caviar, a personal maid and butler, a chauffeur-driven limousine, and is frequently relaxing beside a customized swimming pool at his home.

The reality is that Gunther IV’s wealth is controlled by a trust. Establishing a trust enables wealthy individuals to direct money for the care of their animals after they die.  A trustee controls the money and makes decisions as to what is to be paid for; a caretaker looks after the pet and asks the trustee to pay for the bills and related expenses; the Court makes sure that the trustee and caretaker are acting in the interests of the beneficiary and not using the funds for their own benefit.

A trust usually details what should happen once a pet dies, usually whatever money left over is distributed to named individuals or a charity, or if beneficiaries are not named absorbed back into the estate.

Lagerfeld could have either appointed a caretaker for Choupette as Maria Assunta did, or he could have set up a trust like Karlotta Liebenstein, to look after her. The trust deed could be drafted so that if Choupette died, the trust could be wound up and any remaining balance would go to another designated beneficiary or to charity.

As it stands France (which has unfavourable laws regarding trusts – as they are considered to be vehicles for tax evasion) as the principal place of residence for Lagerfeld and Choupette would get its share of inheritance tax which can be as high as 45%.

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