The world gained another multimillionaire late last year and by multi, we mean $13 million. If that doesn't seem newsworthy, it might seem a little more extraordinary to know that this multimillionaire is a cat. Tommaso is a stray cat found on the streets of Rome and adopted by millionaire real estate tycoon Maria Assunta who died at the age of 94. (For more, read Why Your Will Should Name Designated Beneficiaries.)
TUTORIAL: Estate Planning
Assunta, who had no kids, originally wanted a donation made to an animal welfare association that would commit to taking care of Tommaso, but later decided to leave her fortune to her cat, who is represented by a trustee.
If this story sounds like something that you'll only read about once in your lifetime, that may not be true. Tommaso is rich, but she is only the third richest pet in the world. In fact, one animal, a chimp named Kalu was supposed to inherit $80 million, but reports indicate that the money was stolen before Kalu's owner died. And even if this chimp did get the money, Kalu would have only been No. 2 on the list of the richest animals.
Countess Karlotta Libenstein of Germany left German Shepherd Gunther III, Gunther IV's father, $106 million. Trustees took the money and invested it and by the time Gunther IV was born, the gift had grown to $372 million. This is a dog with expensive tastes. Gunther IV reportedly purchased a villa from Madonna for more than $3 million and a rare white truffle for $1,500.
Toby Rimes is another millionaire that made her money the old fashioned way: She inherited it. Toby Rimes is a descendant of a poodle owned by millionaire Ella Wendel who, in 1931, left her dog $20 million. Today, the gift is worth $80 million, making Toby Rimes the second richest animal in the world. (For more, check out Keep Your Pets' Trust.)
Trouble, the Maltese companion of the late Leona Helmsley, passed away in 2010 at the age of 64 (in human years - she was actually 12 years old). Trouble was worth $12 million when she died in Sarasota, Fla. This animal was a symbol of excess, and led the same life that made Helmsley somebody that the public loved to hate. Trouble was hand fed crab cakes, cream cheese and steamed vegetables until she moved to Sarasota where she lived out her life modestly eating canned Alpo.
If you thought that rich animals only came from old money, that's not always the case. Flossie, who passed away in 2010, was a dog that Drew Barrymore adopted from an animal shelter. Flossie alerted Barrymore and then boyfriend Tom Green that their home was on fire. Barrymore credits Flossie with saving their lives and in return, added to her will that her $3 million home would be left to her beloved dog, Flossie.
The Bottom Line
How much do you love your pet? Enough to leave them your entire fortune? You may not have millions to will once you pass away, but if you're looking for ways to make sure that your pet is taken care of, arrangements can be made to have money set aside for their ongoing care. (To learn more, read Caring For Fido After You're Gone.)