Millionaire dog death brings up legal disputes

Leona Helmsley and her "Trouble" in 2003 (AP)

"Trouble," the pooch who inherited $12 million from hotel mogul Leona Helmsley, has died, heading to the hunting grounds in the sky and leaving a trail of money and legal disputes behind.

The pampered Maltese bitch with a curly off-white coat died December 13, spokeswoman Eileen Sullivan said, but news only emerged on Thursday.

She was 12 in human years, or 84 in doggie years, just shy of the 87 years at which her eccentric mistress and benefactor Helmsley died in 2007.

"She was cremated, and her remains are being privately retained," Sullivan said. The remaining funds held in trust for "Trouble" have gone to The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

When Helmsley died she left her adored companion $12 million, but a New York judge agreed she had been mentally incompetent and knocked down that fortune to a mere $2 million, while boosting the inheritance left to Helmsley's human family and to charity.

"Trouble," known for snapping nastily at just about anyone except Helmsley, retired to Florida, living and finally dying in luxury at the Helmsley Sandcastle hotel in Sarasota.

According to the New York Daily News, which broke the story, "Trouble" chewed through $100,000 a year, with $8,000 for grooming, $1,200 for food and the rest for security against dozens of kidnapping and death threats.

For "Trouble," mealtime was never a question of canned meat in a plastic bowl, but fresh chicken and vegetables prepared by a Helmsley hotel chef and served on silver and china plates -- for the diamond-collar canine, the New York Times reported.

Despite lavishing love on Helmsley, "Trouble" lived up to her name where the real estate billionaire's other entourage was concerned.

At Helmsley's death, outraged relatives went to court to complain that the matriarch's will was barking mad -- a final insult from a woman long dubbed "Queen of Mean" for her bad temper, penny pinching and tax evasion.

In the original will, the dog got more than the humans. Two grandsons were told they could receive $5 million provided they promised to visit their late father's grave annually, while two other grandchildren were cut out "for reasons which are known to them."

Most of Helmsley's wealth, worth some $8 billion, went to charity.

A judge agreed to cut "Trouble's" part of the will to millionaire-style scraps and gave $6 million to the grandchildren who had been left out.

Helmsley, who served 18 months in prison for tax dodging and once declared that "only the little people pay taxes," had another of her last wishes thwarted: to be reunited in death with little "Trouble."

Her hope to have the dog buried alongside her in a spacious family mausoleum in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery outside New York was forbidden under rules barring animals.

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