By Elisa Black-Taylor
A Tennessee man has left his two cats an inheritance worth $250,000 as well as a 4,200-square-foot home. Although Leon Sheppard, 79, died in December 2012, the story of his now rich cats is making it’s way around the internet.
Leon was a retired Memphis businessman who had five children, 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren whom he could have passed his inheritance on to. Instead, his two cats Frisco and Jake will continue to live a life of luxury. The money will be used to care for the cats and for upkeep on the home. After Frisco goes to the rainbow bridge, the money will be divided between surviving family members. It’s stated in the will that Jake will be taken care of for the rest his life. Perhaps Frisco is a much older cat than Jake, and Leon doesn’t want to make his family wait forever to receive their share.
Since leaving an inheritance to a pet involves a lot of legal loopholes, it’s advised to get a good attorney if you’re planning to do this. In most states cats cannot own property, so the cat has to have a “guardian” of sorts who will see the money is spent on what the testator (person making the will) desires.
Planning to leave an estate is done by creating a pet trust, and are carried out similar to charitable trusts where the money is used to benefit a charity. Except instead of a charity, it’s used for provide care for the deceased persons pets.
Memphis attorney Randall Fishman believes it’s normal for a person to leave money to animals saying “People donate to animal hospitals and charities all the time; the only difference is that Mr. Sheppard’s estate is going to specific animals.”
It’s likely the will won’t be contested. Relatives have refused to speak to the media about this situation. I wonder whether they knew about it beforehand. In Tennessee, a person considered of sound mind when the will was drafted and signed is considered of sound mind. The family would have to have very good evidence that Leon was mentally disturbed at the time it was written. That’s not likely to happen.
This isn’t my first article about pet trust funds. I covered the topic here awhile back.
There have been many cats (and dogs) who were left a sizable inheritance after the death of their owner. Just Google “man (or woman) left inheritance to cats” and you’ll be shown quite a few examples.
Is it morally right for a person to leave their fortune to their cats? There are likely those out there reading this with the attitude “it’s just a cat.” What kind of mentality does a person who does this have, to love cats more than family. Shouldn’t family come first in a person’s life? How would you feel if you were a member of this man’s family? Now THAT I’d like some comments on!
All I’ll say is this: cats don’t complain, they’re easier to please than humans and they love unconditionally. How do you all feel about this?
Note: I’ve listed the references below because each tells a different part of this story.