Will Leaving $100,000 to a Cat is Upheld

new york estate attorneyCharlotte Stafford had three nephews and a cat. She left her cat, Kissiemeouw, $100,000 and she disinherited her three nephews.

Nephews Challenge The Will

The nephews challenged the will. They claim their aunt did not have the mental competency to make a will. The attorney who drew up the will testified Charlotte Stafford was “very aware and alert at the time the will was drafted.” He testified she had the appropriate testamentary capacity and knew exactly what she was doing when she left $100,000 in a trust to her cat.

No Undue Influence From The Cat!

Justice John Egan wrote the decision on behalf of the Appellate Division for the Third Department (an appeals court) that by all accounts, decedent was a very intelligent, private and strong willed woman who ran her life the way she wanted to run it. He went on to state her attorney “did not observe any evidence of undue influence with respect to the execution of various instruments or the dispositions contained therein.” He made these statements with regard to the will and trust set up for Ms. Stafford’s cat.

Charlotte Stafford, in addition to disinheriting her three nephews, left $300,000 to be used to maintain her home. The home was to be held in a trust for the benefit of the Town of Oxford. It was to be used for historical research and preservation purposes pursuant to the terms of her will. The trust she set up for her cat, Kissiemeouw Stafford, contained provisions for the maintenance of the Stafford home which was to terminate upon the cat’s death or the passage of 21 years from Charlotte Stafford’s death. Her friend and housemate, Vicky House, was designated as the cat’s caretaker. Pursuant to the terms of the will, she was allowed to live in the Stafford house rent free as long as she acted as the caretaker of the cat.

Conclusion

Cat wins, nephews lose!

estate planning is crucialElliot S. Schlissel, is a member of the National Academy of  Elder Law Attorneys.  He drafts wills and trusts and represents clients regarding estate litigation.