top of page

Childless, Wealthy, And Really Good Pet Parents

It's happened again: A woman without children has died, legally leaving a small fortune to...her pet.

Although Bronx resident Ellen Frey-Wouters died in 2015 at age 88, the news that her cats Tiger and Troy would inherit only broke in August 2017. Of her $3 million estate, Ellen's will ensured that $300,000 would be used to ensure the animals would "never be caged" and always cared for with love.

[This is where I have to say that I have owned, loved, and been loved by seven cats in my life. I can imagine being rich and famous. I can't imagine leaving my cat that much of my money.]

Ellen was a native of The Netherlands and longtime staffer at the United Nations. She was widowed in 1989 when her husband, a college professor, passed away. Their only child died in infancy. No surprise, one of Ellen's former caretakers told reporters, “The cats were like her babies.”

The cats -- that's Troy above at left, and Tiger -- are now living with Ellen's former home health aides, who each received their own portions of the estate. The balance was spent on charities and legal fees. And there must be a backstory as to why Ellen's sister living in the Netherlands only gets whatever is left of the cats' trust fund when they die.

To review:

2015: Shabista Srivastava and her husband Brijesh believe their luck changed when they brought a monkey into their home. Living in India's Uttar Pradesh State, they were scorned by their families because she is Muslim, her husband is Hindu, and they were quite poor.

The couple says that after adopting Chunmun the monkey in 2004, everything changed.

Shabista is now a successful lawyer and her husband owns several businesses all named after Chunmun. A trust fund will care for the monkey if he outlives his owners, and after Chunmun dies, leftover funds will go to a charity caring for monkeys across India.

“People might say we are mad, they might even ridicule us. But we know how valuable Chunmun is to us. We are childless and Chunmun is a son to me,” Shabista said.

2011: Maria Assunta died in Rome at age 94. Her cat, Tommaso, scored 13 million dollars.

Maria was the widow of an Italian property tycoon, and she had no children. In the US, leaving money to a pet became legally possible in 1990, when the Uniform Probate Code was modified to allow trusts for domestic animals.

2006: Hotel and real estate magnate Leona Helmsley died at age 87 in 2006. She willed

$12 million of her considerable fortune to her Maltese dog, Trouble. Leona’s only human child, Jay, died in 1982.

Trouble died in 2011 at age 12, with yearly expenses estimated to be $190,000. ($100,000 security team, grooming $8,000, food $1,200, medical $2,500 to $18,000 and guardian's fee $60,000).

Childless and crazy? Or, childless and caring? In each of these cases, charities receive major donations, and sometimes, relatives do, too.

I want my cat to be cared for if he's still around, but it won't take $300,000.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page