Trouble, the white Maltese owned by Leona Helmsley, the New York hotel heiress known as the “queen of mean,” has died. Helmsley’s estate plan created a Pet Trust for Trouble, funded with $12 million from her estate. A judge later reduced the amount of the gift to $2 million. Another unusual provision that was nixed by government authorities was a provision in Helmsley’s Will that the dog be buried with her upon its death. New York state law prohibits animals from being buried in a cemetery for humans.
Helmsley’s brother, Alvin Rosenthal, was given millions of dollars from the estate and named as the caretaker for the dog, but he declined to act. Trouble spent the last five years of her life being pampered at the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel in Sarasota, Florida. Her caretaker, Carl Lekic, spent $100,000 annually for her care. The dog also had a full-time security dog after receiving death threats after Helmsley’s death. The remaining funds in the Pet Trust revert to charities named in Helmsley’s estate plan.
While many pet lovers do not have millions of dollars to leave to their pets, many animal lovers who are clients of Riverside estate planning attorney, Dennis Sandoval, use Pet Trusts to assure proper care is provided for their pets after the death of the owner. As demonstrated by the refusal of Alvin Rosenthal to serve as caregiver, careful thought should be given when selecting the caregiver as well as the trustee of the Pet Trust. It is often best to have separate persons or entities serving in each capacity to assure compliance with the terms of the Pet Trust. A caregiver who also serves as the trustee can abuse the pet or the terms of the trust with impunity, as the pet has no ability to object. Trust Protectors are also sometimes used in Pet Trusts to assure that the terms of the trust are honored and the pets are taken care of as intended by the owners.
Not all Riverside estate planning attorneys are familiar with Pet Trusts. Dennis Sandoval is familiar with the California Pet Trust statute and he is familiar with planning for continued quality care for pets after death. He has worked with many pet care charities such as Best Friends Animal Society and Bidawee when an individual has no one to provide for care of the pet after death. Call 951-888-1460 or visit our website to request a copy of our Pet Trust brochure. To schedule a free consultation at our Riverside law firm with one of estate planning attorneys who specialize in Pet Trusts, call 951-888-1460 or request a consultation on the website.