Like the old saying goes, you can’t choose your family. But if you’re an animal your family can sure as heck choose you, which is probably why many of the world’s mega-rich have chosen to bequeath more of their inheritance to their loyal pets than to their often spoiled kids.
Once a novelty, it’s now become expected for the unimaginably wealthy to leave millions to their surviving pets to ensure there’s no disruption in their spa treatments and fancy feasts.
If you thought the amounts of money lavished on human heirs of the rich and famous were obscene, wait till you see the millions rained on these one percenters of the animal kingdom. [For those people without Scrooge McDuck money, here’s how you can make sure your pets are taken care of after you’re gone.]
10. Pet: Bubbles (chimpanzee)
Owner: Michael Jackson
Bequest: $2 million
Long before it became a reality, Jackson left his chimp Bubbles $2 million payable upon his death. However, fears that the chimp’s increasing aggression might be a danger to Jackson’s newborn son forced the preemptive relocation of Bubbles to an animal sanctuary, where he lives to this day. Which is probably a healthier environment than life in the Jackson family anyway.
9. Pets: Unspecified number of dogs
Owner: Majel Barrett-Roddenberry
Bequest: $4 million
After dying in 2009 at the age of 76, the widow of Star Trek creator Gene set up a $4 million trust for their dogs, plus an additional $1 million for a domestic employee to care for them.
8. Pet: Gigoo (hen)
Owner: Miles Blackwell
Bequest: $10 million
Blackwell and his wife had a track record of caring for animals, having established the Tubney Charitable Trust in 1997 to protect farm critters. After she died in 2001, the childless publishing magnate left Gigoo 10 extra-large then died unexpectedly three weeks later at age 56.
7. Pet: Conchita (Chihuahua), Lucia (Yorkshire terrier) and April Marie (Maltese)
Owner: Gail Posner
Bequest: $11 million
A lawsuit filed by Posner’s estranged son alleges she was unduly influenced by house waitstaff when she bestowed $3 million in trust funds and her $8 million mansion to her three dogs, who presently ride to the pet spa each week in a gold Escalade. Lending the lawsuit merit is the $27 million the staff also received after Posner’s death in 2010.
6. Pet: Trouble (Maltese)
Owner: Leona Helmsley
Bequest: $12 million
Upon her death in 2007, the real estate mogul left Trouble more than she did two of her grandchildren, whom she deliberately left out of her will entirely. But even after death threats issued against the pup required adding a security guard to her list of expenses, a judge who was clearly ignorant of the cost of a good groomer these days determined that she could get by on $2 million. Six million were given to the two grandkids and the rest went to charity.
5. Pet: Blackie (cat)
Owner: Ben Rea
Bequest: $12.5 million
Fiercely reclusive, British antique dealer Ben Rea would have died in relative obscurity in 1988 had he not endowed almost his entire estate to Blackie, the lone remaining feline from a group of 15, along with three cat charities.
4. Pet: Tommaso (cat)
Owner: Maria Assunta
Bequest: $13 million
The childless widow of an Italian real estate investor, Assunta rescued 4-year-old stray Tommaso from the streets of Rome. When her health began to decline, Assunta sought an organization that could see to Tommaso’s care after her passing. When that proved fruitless she simply transferred her $13 million total net worth to the newly-minted meowionaire upon her death in 2011.
3. Pets: Luke and Layla (golden retrievers), Sadie (cocker spaniel), Sunny and Lauren (springer spaniels)
Owner: Oprah Winfrey
Bequest: $30 million
The billionaire TV bastion was once quoted as saying that if her home were to catch fire, the one personal possession she would grab is a photo album of her five dogs. Should such an attempt end in tragedy, at least they’ll be cared for, with a sizable portion of her estate set aside as a trust reserved just for them.
2. Pet: Kalu (chimpanzee)
Owner: Patricia O’Neill
Bequest: $70 million
The daughter of a British countess and ex-wife of Olympic medalist Frank O’Neill added her beloved pet chimp to her will, reportedly while he was away at the Sydney Games. A collection of over 40 animals, headlined by Kalu, stood to inherit O’Neill’s Cape Town estate until it was revealed in 2010 that a crooked financial advisor had allegedly siphoned the socialite’s fortune down to almost nothing.
1. Pet: Gunther III (German shepherd)
Owner: Carlotta Liebenstein
Bequest: $80 million
Left an inheritance in 1992 that, thanks to investments, ballooned to as much as $372 million, Gunther III sired offspring Gunther IV, who was listed as the buyer of Madonna’s Miami mansion in 2000. The sale was part of a publicity stunt involving a European pop group, leading many to question the credibility of certain parts of the story, from whether or not Gunther IV is actually the scion of Gunther III to whether the German countess even existed in the first place.