Leona Helmsley was the real estate tycoon everyone loved to hate. In death, she left $12 million to her dog, Trouble -- the biggest bequest to any living thing in her will, sparking an outcry among angry observers. Now it seems that Trouble's not the only pooch to benefit from Helmsley's fortune.

When the rest of her fortune, estimated to be between $5 billion and $8 billion, is distributed, most or all of it will go for the care and welfare of dogs. If you're wondering what happened to people in her will, well, they used to be there. In 2003, her will included provisions to help indigent people, as well as dogs. A year later, according to sources, the first goal was removed

This gift to dogs may get curbed a bit, as trustees may be able to exercise some discretion. But that's not a sure thing, since Helmsley apparently made her wishes extremely clear.

We can learn
Let Helmsley's final wishes serve as a reminder, Fools, as we prepare our estates. We should make our wishes clear, in legal documents -- especially if we anticipate any challenges to those wishes. We should also be sure to have a will in place -- possibly a trust, too. You can learn more about all these measures in our Death & Taxes collection.

Meanwhile, you should also think about what, exactly, you'll be leaving your loved ones. You may have a delightfully clear will, but if your savings have been socked under your mattress, you're probably not going to make any heirs rich.

Make the most of your money by seeking out stocks with solid growth records, competitive advantages, and promising futures. (A sturdy dividend never hurt anyone, either.) Below are just a few potential candidates; I found them by screening at Yahoo! Finance for companies with returns on assets of at least 10, dividend yields of 2% or more, and P/E ratios below 25.

Company

Return on assets

Dividend yield

P/E ratio

Chevron (NYSE:CVX)

12%

2.8%

10

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK)

17%

4.4%

13

Nucor (NYSE:NUE)

17%

2.0%

13

Nutrisystem (NASDAQ:NTRI)

43

4.7%

7

Sealy (NYSE:ZZ)

10%

5.1%

8

3M (NYSE:MMM)

14%

2.9%

13

Harley Davidson (NYSE:HOG)

16%

4.0%

9

They might be good vehicles not only to pass money to your heirs, but also to keep your own retirement out of the doghouse.