Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Woman Leaves House to Cats, Cats Live in House for Seven Years

CatSome called Muriel Bayne "the cat lady," a nickname she lived-up to even in death.  Bayne, a Massachusettes resident who passed away in 2001, left her home and a $300,000 trust to her cats:  

  • During her life, Bayne grew her own catnip for her cats Shadow, Lady, Dolly, and Spot. 
  • Bayne did not have any children.
  •  After Bayne's husband passed away, Bayne hired an attorney to help her ensure that the cats would not be removed from the house after her death.
  • The attorney hired by Bayne thought her desire to keep the cats at home was bizarre and unsuccessfully tried to talk her out of it. 
  • Because Massachusetts law prohibits pet trusts, Bayne technically left her house and the money to her attorney and charged him with caring for the cats. 
  • The cats lived in the home for seven years after Bayne's death, during which time a neighbor appointed by Bayne was paid about $100 a week to visit the house twice a day, feed and play with the cats, clean the litter box, and do some light cleaning in the house.  The neighbor also made sure the house stayed comfortable during the winter and the summer.  
  • After the last cat died, the house was sold, the trust terminated, and the trust's assets were split among charities designated by Bayne. 
  • The new homeowner has kept a "cat ventory" plaque in the kitchen, which lists the cats names and was used by Bayne to keep track of where the cats were inside and outside the house.

For more information, including pictures of the home and a video, see Jennifer B. McKim, Her last gift: A little house in Newton, just for the cats, Boston.com, Jan. 17, 2010.

Special thanks to Alfred Brophy (professor of law, UNC) for bringing this article to may attention.


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