A Manhattan judge ruled this week that the trustees of Leona Helmsley’s estate can spread her estimated $5 billion fortune among charities that benefit more than just dogs. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust had stated that the money should be used for “purposes related to the provision of care for dogs” as well as other charities.

But the Helmsley trustees, who include her brother and two of her four grandchildren, had sought the ruling from Manhattan Surrogate Court Justice Troy Webber after reports that the funds would be applied only to dog-related charities.

The luxury-hotel queen, who died in 2007 at age 87, made headlines when she left $12 million in her will to her dog Trouble, while freezing out two grandchildren. Last year a judge cut Trouble’s trust fund down to $2 million, while providing $6 million to her two disowned grandchildren.

Trouble, a tiny Maltese, was known to dine on grilled fish and vegetables when she lived the highlife with Ms. Helmsley on Park Avenue. Trouble now lives with a Helmsley relative in Sarasota, Fla., but it’s still questionable whether the $2 million will be enough for the dog to live out its days in luxury. Known for biting her handlers, Trouble was sued last year for $12 million by a former caretaker, Zamfira Sfara, who claims the dog’s teeth left her with permanent injuries.

In addition to legal expenses, the dog’s handler says Trouble’s annual expenses total about $300,000, including around-the-clock protection that costs about $210,000 a year.

Just a hunch, but I’m willing to wager a year’s salary that ol’ Trouble’s caretaker won’t let nary a hair on that little pooch’s head be disturbed, lest he risk losing that $300,000 per year gig. – Greg Henderson, Drovers editor.