Everyone knows the importance of a will, especially those who have recently lost loved ones. Without a will, important questions of inheritance become much more difficult to answer. But even when an individual has a will, legal contests can make probate challenging for the loved ones left behind.

Three years ago, the country took notice of one particularly unusual probate case. An elderly billionaire passed away, leaving behind $12 million to her beloved pet: a Maltese dog named Trouble. The family disputed the will, and eventually Trouble won an inheritance of $2 million. Now that Trouble has passed away, the case is once again making national news.

Although Trouble lived much of her life in New York, after her owner's death, she moved to Florida to be cared for by the general manager of Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel. Her caretaker used the dog's funds appropriately, providing exceptional care for the Maltese. Although the dog's care may seem unnecessarily extravagant to outsiders, it is encouraging to see that the owner's wishes have been carried out.

Many people in Florida may be wondering how this kind of situation applies to everyday people. After all, most individuals do not have billion dollar estates. However, many people do have similar concerns as this dog's owner.

She wanted to ensure that the people and animals she cared about would be protected after her death. She provided for a charitable fund with much of her estate, so that the causes she cared about would have important financial backing. She ensured that her beloved Maltese would not suffer after her death. And she outlined her wishes clearly before her death.

Like many families, her wishes surprised and even angered some of her family members, so the case required probate. In situations such as these, an experienced probate lawyer is often required to help families reach positive resolutions.

Source: New York Times, "Cosseted life and secret end of a millionaire Maltese," Cara Buckley, 9 June 2011