The Queen of Mean, a $12m legacy and the richest bitch of them all

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The Independent US

A "dog's life" will not be so bad for Trouble, a white Maltese that has emerged as the prime beneficiary in the will of the late hotel and property development mogul Leona Helmsley.

To the presumed chagrin of two of her grandchildren, who will receive none of her fortune, the pet has come out startlingly well.

Ms Helmsley, once dubbed the "Queen of Mean" for her crabby demeanour and conviction on tax-evasion charges, directed that $12m (£6m) of her fortune be set aside for the pooch, prompting one New York tabloid to carry the front-page headline "Rich Bitch". (Trouble is a girl.)

The generosity of her bequest, which would amount to $3,281 every day if Trouble lives another 10 years, would be hard for anyone to fathom. How many salmon breakfasts and diamond-encrusted collars can be lavished on one small creature? She also stipulated that, upon the dog's demise, it should be buried beside her in her mausoleum in Westchester County, just north of New York City.

While the bulk of the proceeds from her assets, valued at more than $4bn, will go to charities, Ms Helmsley, who died on 20 August aged 87 at home in Greenwich, Connecticut, did leave $5m each to two of the children of her late son, Jay Panzirer, who died in 1982.

They will have to work a little for it. To get the money, they must meet one condition: to visit the grave of their father at least once a year, "preferably on the anniversary of my said son's death".

The two other grandchildren, Craig and Meegan Panzirer, are not so lucky. All they have from the death of their grandmother is a severe case of dog envy. "I have not made any provisions in this will for my grandson Craig Panzirer or my granddaughter Meegan Panzirer for reasons which are known to them," Ms Helmsley wrote in her will which was made public by a New York court this week.

Other beneficiaries included her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who will receive $10m, and her chauffeur, Nicholas Celea. He finds himself $100,000 richer. There are also provisions in the 14-page will for the upkeep of the mausoleum occupied by Ms Helmsley's late third husband, Harry Helmsley, who died in 1997, and now herself. She set aside $3m for annual washing and steam-cleaning.

In the late 1980's, Ms Helmsley became a symbol of greed and excess in New York. Her fall from grace was abrupt in 1989 when she was convicted of evading $1.7m in taxes from her businesses, which at the time included the Helmsley Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue. She was sent to prison for 18 months. Public sympathy for her was scant, not least after a former employee quoted her as saying once that, "only the little people pay taxes". She repeatedly denied making the remark.

For wealthy folk to make some provisions in their wills for pets is not unusual, but never has so much been left to one so furry and small. While there is little research on the subject, the record may previously have been held by Minnie, Foxie, Rodeo and Robert, the four dogs of the late tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who died in 1993 leaving the quartet a measly $100,000.

That Trouble meant a lot to Ms Helmsley is not in dispute. She was seen holding him regularly in society photographs and once included him in brochures for her hotels. Perhaps out of respect for her owner's reputation for eruptions or ill-temper, the dog managed to bite a housekeeper on the set.

Ms Helmsley may have felt so attached to Trouble because of a shortage of friends in the human race. Four years ago, her own lawyers in a civil suit commissioned a polling company to find out who were the five "most hated people in New York" to prove she could not get a fair trial in the city. Sure enough, it emerged that the damage done to her reputation in her tax trial had not dissipated. Ms Helmsley still topped the list of New York's most despised people.