You’ve heard the story many times before – an elderly owner bequeaths a sizeable personal fortune to their beloved pet and the family members get the equivalent of a packet of dog biscuits.
It’s nothing new and so long as there are wealthy benefactors and pets, there will be wills leaving small fortunes to creatures that can’t spend a penny.
Recently, a Maltese terrier called Bella Mia hit the headlines when her owner Rose Ann Bolasny announced she would be leaving $1.5m. Bella is claimed to be a “gift from God”. Mrs Bolasny’s sons, apparently, will get nada.
The truth is, Bella Mia’s future windfall doesn’t even make our list of rich pets who continued to live a pampered lifestyle long after their owners had departed this mortal coil.
So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 pets – or at least the ten we’ve discovered…
10. Champagne Bubbles – $2m
One of the world’s most famous pets is Bubbles, the chimp companion of former King of Pop Michael Jackson. Bubbles lived with Jackson at his Neverland ranch but had to be rehomed when it was believed he became jealous of Michael’s new-born son. Today, he lives in a sanctuary in Florida but inherited a reported $2m when his former owner sadly passed away a few years back.
9.Doggone fortune – $3.75m
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s widow Marjel willed $3.75m to her pet dogs in a trust fund when she passed away in 2009. She also left $1m for the future care costs of the animals. Relatives could have been forgiven if they’d have reacted with a ‘beam me up, Scotty’ when the will was first read.
8. Hardly chicken feed…$10m
Talk about golden eggs. Publishing magnate Miles Blackwell left the mind-boggling sum of $10m to pet chicken Gigoo, who inherited the sum when Blackwell’s wife passed away. No offence to the hen world, but this fortune is one of the more mystifying in the list, unless Blackwell wanted the last laugh for some unknown reason?
7. Doggy treats – $11m
There was a anger and frustration from Gail Posner’s estranged son when he discovered his mum’s three dogs had been left $3m in trust funds and a further $8m from the sale of her mansion. The son claimed his mother had been unduly influenced by the hired help – who received some $27m between them. The legal arguments will no doubt run and run…
6. Trouble at large – $12m
Another Maltese terrier makes it on to the rich list with Trouble left around $12m by owner Leona Helmsley. Real estate queen Helmsley passed away in 2007, but left her dog considerably more than two of her grandchildren who she purposely excluded from her inheritance package. However, a judge ordered the dog be left just $2m while grandkids got $6m for their trouble with the remainder given to charity.
5. Lucky black cat – $12.5m
Blackie the cat was left $12.5m by reclusive British antique Ben Rea. Rea bequeathed almost all of his sizeable estate to his beloved moggy in 1988. Three cat charities also benefitted from Rea’s generosity. Blackie is not the richest moggy in this list, however…
4. Tommaso strikes it rich – $13m
A stray cat rescued from the streets of Rome enjoyed a fairy-tale ending when the widow of a wealthy Italian real estate investor left more than $13m in a genuine rags to riches story. Maria Assunta attempted to find care for Tommaso when her health began to fail, but couldn’t find suitable care. Instead, she left her fortune in her will upon her death in 2011. Italian law states animals cannot be the direct beneficiaries so a lady called Stefania who had befriended the 94-yearold Assunta was entrusted to care for the cat – and the fortune.
3. Oprah windfall – $30m
TV mogul Oprah Winfrey’s five dogs stand to inherit $30m if the chat show queen were to meet an untimely end anytime soon. Luke and Layla (golden retrievers), Sadie (cocker spaniel), Sunny and Lauren (springer spaniels) have been bequeathed the huge fortune in a trust fund by the American billionaire. Hopefully, Oprah will be around for a long time yet, but in theory, they are worth a place in this list.
2. Monkey business $70m
Chimpanzee Kalu would have become the richest chimp on the planet has his owner’s will be properly executed. A $70m fortune was lined up for Kalu and a collection of another 40 or so animals by owner Patricia O’Neill. However a crooked financial advisor reportedly whittled away O’Neill’s fortune and by 2010 she had next to nothing left. But for the greed of another, Kalu would have been good for bananas for many years to come.
1. Son of a Gun – $80m (and counting)
When it comes to rich pets, German Shepherd Gunther IV leads the way comfortably. Gunter III fathered Gunter IV and Karlotta Liebenstein’s beloved dog inherited $80m – but with investments this became his son’s fortune totalling almost $400m. So much so that Gunter IV is listed as the buyer of Madonna’s Miami Beach home in 2000. Who’d have thought a humble dog had such wealthy real estate needs?