Judge trims dog's $12 million inheritance

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Trouble, the beloved dog of late billionaire Leona Helmsley, lost $10 million in an inheritance settlement but it still should be able to live a life of luxury.

Real estate baroness Leona Helmsley appears for court in New York on January 21, 2003. REUTERS/Chip East

Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Renee Roth accepted a settlement between Helmsley’s heirs and the New York State Attorney General’s office that cuts Trouble’s inheritance from $12 million to $2 million on grounds that Helmsley was mentally unfit when she made her will.

The ruling was made on April 30 and became public on Monday.

The settlement also awarded Helmsley’s two grandchildren, Craig Panzirer and Meegan Panzirer Wesolko, $6 million. They had been cut out of her will “for reasons which are known to them,” the document said.

Helmsley, who was known as “the Queen of Mean” because of the way she dealt with her employees, but had a soft spot for Trouble. A clause in her will called for the 9-year-old white Maltese to eventually be buried next to her in the Helmsley mausoleum.

Carl Lekic, the general manager of a Helmsley hotel in Florida and now Trouble’s caretaker, said $2 million would be “enough money to pay for the dog’s maintenance and welfare at the highest standards of care for more than 10 years,” according to an affidavit.

Lekic said the money would cover annual costs of $100,000 for full-time security, $8,000 for grooming and $1,200 for food. Lekic is paid a $60,000 annual guardian fee out of the inheritance.

Lawyers involved in the settlement did not respond to requests for comment.

Helmsley died in August at age 87. She had amassed a fortune in real estate and hotels with her husband, Harry Helmsley, who died in 1997.

Famously quoted as having said “only the little people pay taxes,” Helmsley spent 18 months in federal prison for evading $1.7 million in taxes in 1989.

Editing by Bill Trott