Analysis of Choupette Future After Lagerfeld’s Death

By Jordan S. Linn, Esq., LL.M.

When famed Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld died last week at the age of 85, he reportedly left behind a fortune worth approximately $195 million dollars. A considerable portion of his estate is said to have been bequeathed to his beloved cat, Choupette. Lagerfeld had previously stated on numerous occasions that he referred to his cat as his “heiress” and intended to leave a significant inheritance to the Birman feline.
Choupette is apparently famous in her own right, having earned more than $3 million dollars from modeling jobs fueled by her social media presence which boasts more than 282,000 Instagram followers. This famous feline is accustomed to living a pampered life, enjoying specially prepared meals of caviar and pate’, and traveling on private jets with full-time caretakers.

Pet Trusts Law

In New York State, “pet trusts” are governed by Estates Powers and Trusts Law §7-8.1 and allow for the creation of a special trust benefitting an animal, designating a trustee to provide for the pet’s needs as prescribed by the trust’s creator. These trusts terminate upon the death of the designated animal(s), and any remaining funds can then be paid over to remainder beneficiaries.

The New York statute specifically permits the court to reduce the amount of the pet’s trust fund if the judge decides that the amount left to the animal substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use. This famously occurred when hotel heiress, Leona Helmsley, died in 2007 leaving a $12 million dollar trust fund for her canine companion, “Trouble”. The judge found this amount to be excessive and reduced the size of Trouble’s trust fund to $2 million dollars. This amount was more than sufficient to maintain the dog’s $100,000 per year lifestyle for the 4 years that he survived his owner (including full time security to protect against kidnapping threats), and upon Trouble’s demise the balance of the Trust fund reverted to other beneficiaries of the Helmsley estate.

What Will Happen to Choupette’s Fortune?

It is not yet known exactly how much of his massive fortune Lagerfeld has left to pampered pet, Choupette. We also do not know whether the feline’s inheritance was provided under the designer’s Will which is likely to be reduced by a judge, or under a separate trust created during Lagerfeld’s lifetime which would be more likely to be carried out in full while escaping the court’s scrutiny. It will be interesting to see how this situation develops.