Page last updated at 17:24 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 18:24 UK

Judge cuts US dog's $12m legacy

Late New York billionaire Leona Helmsley with her dog Trouble
Leona Helmsley's will was challenged by some of her relatives

A judge in New York has agreed to slash $10m (5.1m) off the $12m inheritance given by real estate billionaire Leona Helmsley to her pet dog, Trouble.

Manhattan Surrogate Judge Renee Roth switched the $10m from the nine-year-old Maltese's trust fund to Mrs Helmsley's charitable foundation.

Trouble lives with a manager at the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel in Florida.

Mrs Helmsley, who died last August aged 87, was dubbed the "Queen of Mean" during a trial in 1989 for tax evasion.

An ex-housekeeper testified during the trial that she heard her say: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes," although Mrs Helmsley always denied making the comment.

Burial plans

The court's decision was reportedly made at the end of April but became public on Monday.

Trouble's trustees said the dog did not need the full $12 million and requested the switch, the New York Post reported.

It quoted an affidavit from Carl Lekic, the general manager of the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel, which said $2m would be enough for twice the dog's life expectancy.

He put the annual expenses at $190,000, the Post said.

In an apparently separate agreement worked out between Mrs Helmsley's grandchildren and executors of the estate, two grandchildren previously excluded will now receive money, although none of the parties has spoken publicly.

Mrs Helmsley's will says when Trouble dies she will be buried alongside her and her late husband Harry in their mausoleum.

Mrs Helmsley and her husband built a company which managed some of New York's most prestigious addresses, including the Empire State Building, as well as hotels across the country.

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