Sure, the hotelier and real estate magnate Leona Helmsley left $12 million in her will to her dog, Trouble. But that, it turns out, is nothing much compared with what other dogs may receive from the charitable trust of Mrs. Helmsley, who died last August.
Her instructions, specified in a two-page "mission statement," are that the entire trust, valued at $5 billion to $8 billion and amounting to virtually all her estate, be used for the care and welfare of dogs, according to two people who have seen the document and who described it on condition of anonymity.
It is by no means clear, however, that all the money will go to dogs. Another provision of the mission statement says Mrs. Helmsley's trustees may use their discretion in distributing the money, and some lawyers say the statement may not mean much anyway, given that its directions were not incorporated into Mrs. Helmsley's will or the trust documents.
"The statement is an expression of her wishes that is not necessarily legally binding," said William Josephson, a lawyer who ran the Charities Bureau in the New York State attorney general's office from 1999 to 2004.