It makes sense that people want to provide for their loved ones when they die, especially if their loved ones have no other way of taking care of themselves—like their cherished pets. You really can't count on pets to go out and get jobs (so lazy), so when you're not around, what will become of them? A lot of them can't even use can openers. Famous animal-lover Betty White has supposedly set up a $5 million trust fund for her pets after she dies. Oprah Winfrey's dogs will allegedly receive $30 million when she dies, because she just had to be better than Betty White. Here are nine other times pets inherited (or will be inheriting) their owners' considerable fortunes.
In 2011, Maria Assunto, the childless widow of an Italian real estate tycoon, died at the age of 94 and bequeathed $13 million to her 4-year-old cat, Tommaso. Besides money, Tommaso, who was found on the streets of Rome, also received property in Rome, Milan, and Calabria (how much does that translate to in cat food?). Assunto had hand-written and signed her will in 2009, putting her lawyers in charge of choosing "the animal welfare body or association to which to leave the inheritance and the task of looking after the cat Tommaso." At around the same time, Assunto randomly met a woman in the park named Stefania, who happened to be both a cat-lover and a nurse. "Sometimes I'd go to her house so my cat could play with Tommaso," Stefania told The Guardian. When Assunto's health began to fail, Stefania also stepped in to take care of the frail elderly woman, helping her climb stairs and eat and bathe. So either Assunto or her lawyers (it's not really clear) decided that she would leave the fortune to her cat, in the care of Stefania.
Anna Orecchioni, one of the estate's lawyers, told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, "We're convinced that Stefania is the right person to carry out the old lady's wishes. She loves animals just like the woman she devoted herself to right up until the end."
Stefania, for her part, claimed she wasn't aware just how wealthy the woman she worked for was. She told the Telegraph:
The old lady suffered from loneliness. She looked after that cat more than you'd look after a son. I promised her that I would look after the cat when she was no longer around. She wanted to be sure that Tommaso would be loved and cuddled. But I never imagined that she had this sort of wealth. She was very discreet and quiet. I knew very little of her private life. She only told me that she had suffered from loneliness a lot.
In what has to be one of the most publicized cases of a human leaving a huge amount of money to a pet, Leona Helmsley left $12 million (the bulk of her estate) to her Maltese, Trouble, when she died in 2007. She'd bought the dog as a companion after the death of her husband, Harry Helmsley, a billionaire hotelier. A judge later ruled that the dog would get only $2 million. Luckily, Trouble was still able to scrape by.
Helmsley did leave an undisclosed number of millions to her brother Alvin Rosenthal, who was supposed to take care of Trouble, and $5 million each to two of her four grandchildren, on the condition that they visit their father's grave at least once a year. The other two grandchildren received not a damn penny, for, according to her will, "reasons that are known to them." Her nickname, the "Queen of Mean," seems pretty fitting. (Sorry, Nellie Oleson, you had a good run.)
However, after Helmsley died, Rosenthal decided he didn't want to take care of the dog (perhaps she was…wait for it…too much trouble), who was then flown via private jet to Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel in Sarasota, FL, and looked after by caretaker Carl Lekic. Lelic allegedly spent $100,000 on the dog's care per year, including $8,000 for grooming and $1,200 for dog food. No word on where the other $90,000 went—do dogs do cocaine? Well, there was the cost of full-time security guard, since Trouble received 20 to 30 death threats a year.
Sadly, Trouble died in 2010, at the age of 12. Helmsley's will dictated that her beloved dog be placed beside her in the 12,000-square-foot Helmsley mausoleum (which, as an aside, she requested be "washed or steam-cleaned at least once a year," and she allotted $3 million for that cost). Unfortunately the cemetery wouldn't allow it, so Trouble was cremated and her remains were "privately retained," according to spokesperson Eileen Sullivan.
3. Gunther III
Gunther III then left his fortune to his son, conveniently named Gunther IV. He allegedly bought a villa in Miami from Madonna and was the winning bidder in an auction for a rare white truffle. Watching him handle those transactions must have been adorable. Do you think he wore a monocle?
Well, he must've been a smart investor, because by the time of his death, he was worth about $372 million. He, in turn, left that fortune to his son, Gunther V (yes, we're still talking about dogs), who produced the hit series Dogs Gone Wild but is currently on house arrest for his third DUI. Kidding! Gunther V does live an extravagant lifestyle, though, as you can see from this video of his stay at Casta Diva Resort & Spa, which shockingly has only been watched 373 times since being uploaded in 2014 (and about 325 times were me).
In the tradition of many fine German Shepherds, Gunther is clearly an impeccably trained dog, who slaloms a line of waiters and who will place his paw on a menu (which ostensibly reads "DOG FOOD") on command. Also, according to the video, "It's a well-known fact that Gunther enjoys sailing," which is maybe the best thing I've heard about a dog for at least a week.
When an antiques dealer in England named Ben Rea died in 1988, he left his $12.5 million fortune to a Blackie, the last of the 15 cats with whom he had once allegedly shared his home. Rea chose not to give any money to his family, but he did give some to three cat charities, along with instructions for them to take care of Blackie. Blackie was probably happier about that than the rest of the family, but it's not cats' fault they're better than some humans.
5. Bella Mia
In 2015, accountant Rose Ann Bolasny from Queens, NY announced that when she died, she would be leaving her entire $1 million fortune (including jewelry, a trust fund, and a "holiday home") not to her sons, but to her dog, Bella Mia (which is Italian for Future Kidnapping Victim). She told the Mirror that Bella Mia was a “gift from God," (in actuality she was a Maltese from a pet shop) and that she eats filet mignon and has a whole room for her outfits (which is totally believable given how many different looks she sports in the pictures on her website, Hugs From Bella Mia). According to Bolasny, her sons were "quite happy" to be left out of her will. Uh-huh. Sure they were.
My children are grown and successful. They don't need my money. They know how happy she has made my husband and I.
We decided that we had given her such a lavish life that we wanted to make sure she's still have what she was accustomed to when I was gone.
Bolsany also said Mia's boyfriend is a Chihuahua named Bogie, who bought her a £400 diamond necklace for Valentine's Day. How much do you want to bet this Bogie (if that is his real name) character is just some opportunistic gold digger?
6. Minter, Juice, and Callam
When Alexander McQueen killed himself in 2010, right after the death of his mother, he made sure his three English bull terriers were provided for by leaving them £50,000 (which was about $81,000 at the time) in his will. According to The Standard, his suicide note read simply, "I am sorry… please look after my dogs. Sorry… I love you… Lee."
McQueen's estate was valued at around £16 million, so the dogs' money was just a small fraction. He also left a good deal of money to his family, his godsons, his two caretakers (one of whom found his body), and four different charities, two of which dealt with animal welfare. The Battersea Dogs and Cats Home received £100,000. Their manager, Spencer Wisdom, told the Guardian:
We're thrilled that such an icon of the fashion world chose to leave a lasting gift to the home. Alexander was a devoted animal lover and a great supporter of Battersea, and we know he would be so proud to see his generous donation helping care for the thousands of dogs and cats at Battersea in need of a new home.
An orange tabby named Red was fortunate enough to be the sole inheritor of David Harper's fortune. Well, not directly—when the Canadian died in 2005 without any heirs, he left $1.3 million to the United Church of Canada, so that they would take care of Red. This Red, incidentally, was apparently the last in a long line of orange tabbies Harper had taken in and named Red over the years. The final Red.
A stray black cat who would come to be called Tinker probably had no idea just how lucky he was when he chose to start going round to the home of Margaret Layne, a rich widow living in London. Or maybe he planned it all along. Either way, when Layne died in 2002, Tinker inherited that $800,000 home, as well as a $226,000 trust fund. She asked her neighbor Eugene Wheatley and wife to manage the trust, noting that after Tinker died, they would get the rest. The only catch for Tinker was that he had to live at the home, so his roaming days were over. But that doesn't sound too bad—Wheatley told BBC News, "He has the run of the house, which he now shares with Lucy, who was our pussy but decided to move there after she had a litter. And there's Stardust, a white cat who came to us from a friend who couldn't look after him any more but chose to go and live there."
Singer Dusty Springfield had put a provision in her will for the care of her (then) 13-year-old ragdoll cat Nicholas. When she died (which she did, in 1999), Nicholas was to, according to the New York Post, be fed baby food imported into the U.S. from Britain, live in a 7-foot indoor tree house lined with scratch pads an catnip, sleep in a bed lined with the Springfield's pillowcase and nightgown, be played Springfield's greatest hits each night before bed, and be "married" to Springfield's friend's female cat. That's nice and all, but perhaps a little "Graveseat Driver" for some cats' taste. What if Nicholas doesn't believe in the conventions of marriage? You don't know.