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Can I leave money to pet to ensure it is looked after?

Can I leave money in my will to my cat? How else could I make sure my cat’s looked after? J.D.

You cannot leave money directly to a cat in France – a fact of which designer Karl Lagerfeld, who wanted to leave millions to his cat Choupette, was aware.

The designer, who lived in France, is said to have looked into applying German law to his estate due to his German nationality, but the same rule applies in Germany.

The status of animals in France has evolved over the years and in 2015 they were recognised in the Civil Code as “sensitive living creatures”, as opposed to simply “moveable property”.

But for inheritance issues they still come under the category of property, meaning they can be bequeathed to someone, but you cannot bequeath to them.

The best way to make sure your pet is looked after is to pick a trusted person to whom you could leave it by will. Failing that, find an animal association which would find a new home for it

Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis says animals may be bequeathed to it, though a temporary solution for someone to look after them before the charity takes charge should be provided for.

It would be advisable to speak to any charity you have in mind to make sure it is able to accept a pet and make suitable arrangements.

You will probably want to leave money in your will to the charity or friend who would take charge of the pet. This can be formalised as a legs à charge, a gift linked to a responsibility, in this case agreeing to look after the animal. If in doubt, it would be preferable to take advice from a notaire.

Honorary avocat Gerard Barron said this is a good solution. While it is unlikely anyone would check on whether the recipient is carrying out their duties, charities are usually good at doing so, he said.

Note that if your estate is governed by French law, a share of the estate owed to a “reserved heir” cannot be made conditional on performing certain actions.

Also the money left for the pet should not infringe on any portions legally reserved for heirs (in such a case it can matters to be childless, as Lagerfield was), though an option for UK law, for example, could also help.

Any money left to a friend would have 60% inheritance tax payable on it, which would have to be factored in. Certain charities can receive gifts without tax and some others pay a reduced rate similar to brothers and sisters.

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