BOSTON (TheStreet) -- When she died in 2007, hotel mogul Leona Helmsley named a fluffy, white Maltese dog as her most rewarded heir.
Even as she cut two grandchildren from her will, the dog, named Trouble, was slated to get $12 million until a judge intervened and reduced the pup's inheritance to $2 million -- still more than enough for luxury accommodations at the Helmsley Sandcastle hotel in Sarasota, Fla., and an around-the-clock security team necessitated by dozens of dognapping threats. When Trouble passed away in June of this year at the age of 12, the remainder of the inheritance shifted to the Helmsley Charitable Trust.
Other famous animal lovers have made plans to make their pets wealthy and luxuriously cared for. According to Woman's Day, Oprah Winfrey has reportedly established a $30 million trust fund to care for her dogs and other assorted pets. Actress Betty White did the same with a $5 million fund. The late Michael Jackson left his infamous pet chimp, Bubbles, currently residing at a Florida animal sanctuary, $1 million.
It isn't just the rich and famous who make financial and legal moves to make sure Rover, Fluffy and Snowball are cared for after they pass on.
John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates, a trusts and estates law firm in New York and New Jersey, says he often sees large sums reserved for grooming, health care and food choices "to ensure that the structure of high-quality care is in place for the pet."
The first step for a someone making such plans, even before money issues are discussed, is to establish a point person for carrying out post-death pet care requests.
"They need to choose someone who is going to serve in that position, someone they know is a pet lover and will treat their pet as though it were their own," he says of his clients. "It is not dramatically dissimilar to when someone goes away on vacation for a week. With whom did they leave the pet?"
"It's very common to see parents with young children create pet guardians, because like their children, pets are members of the family," he adds. "Typically the pet guardians are the same guardians as the children guardians, since they never want to separate the children from the pet."
The child/pet connection is often very strong, McManus says. "There are sometimes relationships where the pet comes before he children," he says. "Sometimes, instead of having one more child a couple will get a pet instead. For many people their pets -- cats, dogs or whatever -- are their children."
A more common scenario is for older people, who either never had children or whose kids are grown, who want to ensure quality care for their late-in-life companion.
There best route is to establish a trust to make sure a cherished pet gets "the best food, regular grooming and a top veterinarian," McManus says, adding that the execution of these tasks, and managing the assets, may exceed the role and capabilities of a traditional pet guardian and require a separate trustee.