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Artifact: How the Helmsley Dog Got Stiffed

Findings from the streets, files, and hard drives of New York.

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Above: wealthy dog  

According to a report in the Times last week, Leona Helmsley specified that virtually all of her multi-billion-dollar estate should go to the care and welfare of dogs. Meanwhile, her own pooch, Trouble, has seen her personal fund depleted.


When Helmsley died last year, she left her dog, Trouble, a trust fund of $12 million. Concerned that a single dog would never be able to burn through the entire amount, the trustees of the Helmsley estate successfully argued in Surrogate’s Court this spring to reduce the Trouble trust to a mere $2 million. The case relied in part on expert testimony from the dog’s $60,000-a-year guardian, Carl Lekic. His affidavit is excerpted here:

1. I am the general manager of the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel in Sarasota, Florida, where the decedent Leona M. Helmsley typically spent several months each year with her dog, Trouble. I have known Trouble since she was born, and I became very friendly with her over the years. When I visited New York on business while Mrs. Helmsley was alive, I would also see Trouble, and would pay attention to and play with her.

2. When Mrs. Helmsley died, Trouble’s proposed guardians as designated in Mrs. Helmsley’s will declined to serve in that capacity. I offered to provide a home for Trouble and to take care of her, and the Executors of Mrs. Helmsley’s estate (the “Estate”) determined that I would be a suitable caretaker for Trouble …

3. Trouble’s annual expenses fall into six (6) general categories: Guardian’s fees, security, grooming, veterinary care, food, and miscellaneous (there was also a one-time cost of transporting Trouble to Florida last September). Pursuant to the Guardianship Agreement, I receive a monthly stipend and the Guardian’s fees total $60,000 per year. Full-time private security for Trouble costs approximately $100,000 per year. Grooming fees total approximately $8,000 per year. Veterinary care, based on costs incurred since September 2007 (when Trouble first entered my care), currently costs approximately $2,500 per year, but there will be increased costs of veterinary care associated with the worsening of Trouble’s kidney condition with age, and I estimate that such veterinary costs can be reasonably projected to reach a peak of approximately $18,000 per year. Food costs approximately $1,200 per year, and miscellaneous expenses cost approximately $3,000 per year. These estimated costs (totaling $190,200 per year, including veterinary costs at their peak) are more than sufficient to provide for Trouble’s maintenance and welfare at the highest standards of care, and no more money is needed to maintain that standard. Two million dollars, even if not invested (although I understand it will be invested to yield a reasonable return), would be enough money to pay for Trouble’s maintenance and welfare at the highest standards of care for more than ten years, which is more than twice her reasonably anticipated life expectancy, even taking into account the likelihood of worsening medical conditions, increased veterinary expenses, and any other contingencies.


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