Trouble was the late Leona Helmsley’s Maltese poodle. Ms. Helmsley was a billionaire real estate and hotel tycoon, often called the “Queen of Mean,” and while her life deserves its own blog, her beloved dog also warrants attention.
When Ms. Helmsley died on August 20, 2007, her Will famously left $12 million in trust for Trouble. Ms. Helmsley bought Trouble for comfort after the death of her late husband, the billionaire hotelier Harry Helmsley. In 2008, a judge reduced Trouble’s inheritance to only $2 million, having determined that $12 million was in excess of what was necessary to care for Trouble for the rest of her life, and that $2 million would ensure that she received the highest standard of care for the rest of her life.
Trouble’s trust paid not only for a guardian to take care of her and a security team to guard her (as dog-napping and death threats were unfortunately a way of life for Trouble), but also for her grooming, her food, and her medical expenses, as Trouble was beset with kidney problems in her later years.
Trouble was 12 years old when she died on December 13, 2010 as the richest dog in the world. The money remaining in her trust purportedly went to the Helmsley family trust, which supports charities.
For those of us with pets, whom we love and who become a part of our family, we can understand Ms. Helmsley’s wish to provide for Trouble after her passing. If your pets are important to you, consider providing for them in your Will after you pass away. Who should take care of them, and should that person be given some money to use to care for your pets, so that there is no burden on them? What if that person is unable or unwilling to take responsibility for your pet – is there a no-kill shelter or a sanctuary to which the Executor of your estate can turn your pet over to?
You may also wish to support pets and animals on your death as well. A charitable bequest to an animal shelter or sanctuary, a wildlife organization, a charity that supports animal conservation, a charity that prevents cruelty to animals, or a charity that rescues injured animals can be included in your Will on your passing so that you can help those who cannot help themselves. Speak with your lawyer when you are having your Will prepared about your intentions and your wishes, so that your lawyer can advise you accordingly.