Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Pampered Felines Inherit Riches, Despite Estate Plan Glitches

Talk about fat cats! When Nancy Sauer died last year at age 84, her precious felines became instant millionaires. Widowed and having outlived her only child, the Tampa resident lavished love on her seven Persian cats: Leo, Midnight, Napoleon, Cleopatra, Goldfinger, Snowball and Squeaky.

In her will, Sauer left her $2.5 million, 4,000-square-foot home to the cats, instructing that they were to live there for the rest of their lives and never be separated from one another. Only after all had died could the home be sold. Sauer also left $300,000 for their upkeep.

The personal representative under Sauer’s will hired caretakers to look in on the cats in Sauer’s home. Later, discovering the cats were not living like millionaires – they had been confined to crates and the premises were unclean – the personal representative alerted the Hillsborough County Probate court. The court then ordered the seven cats to be transferred to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

Cat lovers, do not be alarmed: They were well-treated at the humane society. Sherry Silk, its executive director, told the media: “They were not cared for like they should have been. I’m sure Nancy would never, ever have allowed that or wanted that for her cats. So they weren’t in the best shape.” Despite Sauer’s desire for the seven felines to remain together, the humane society arranged for each cat to go its own way, placing each in a separate adoptive home. The people who adopted the cats are being reimbursed for the cats’ upkeep from the $300,000 Sauer earmarked for this purpose. If at any time one of the new owners can no longer care for the cat, he/she must bring it back to the shelter for re-homing.


Plan for Your Pets

Sauer’s arrangements for her pets, obviously made out of love and with only the best intentions, did not protect her pets precisely as she intended. They did not remain in her home, and they were separated from one another. A better approach that would have given Sauer more control over her pets’ fate would have been to set up a Pet Trust.  This entails putting monies in a trust and designating a trustee to manage the funds for your pet’s care.  The trustee may or may not be the same person as your pet’s caregiver.  The trust is usually funded upon the trust creator’s death, but may also be structured so that the pet’s care is assured upon your incapacity. The trustee can be given the authority to change caregivers if your pet is not being cared for as your trust instructs. Learn more about Pet Trusts. 


Sauer’s animals landed on their feet, but many pets are not as lucky. Every year, thousands of household pets end up as strays, in shelters, and even euthanized when their owners become incapacitated or pass away.  Setting up a pet trust ensures that your precious furry or feathered friend will always be properly cared for. Our attorneys have created these plans for many of our clients. To explore this option, call us at (561) 625-1100.