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May 2011

Should Leona Helmsley's Billions Help Dogs As She Wanted?

Leona Helmsley, widely regarded as the “Queen of Mean” before she died at age 87 in 2007, left behind a fortune valued by some to be worth four to eight billion dollars. She earmarked twelve million dollars to take care of her dog, Trouble, until the Judge reduced it to a paltry two million. Leona Helmsley with dog

Helmsley left most of the remainder of her billions to charity, specifically directing that her trustees were to use their discretion for what charitable purposes to benefit. But she also signed a Mission Statement that instructed the trustees to exercise that discretion first for “purposes related to the provision of care for dogs” and, only secondly, for “such other charitable activities as the Trustees shall determine.”

According to published reports, the trustees of Leona Helmsley’s trust have only given away 100,000 dollars to dog-related charities, out of the 450 million dollars they’ve donated so far to charity. That’s only about one-fiftieth of one percent!

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92-Year Old, $100 Million Legacy Shows Creativity in Trusts

The interesting case of a wealthy Michigan lumber baron who died in 1919 highlights how creative someone can be when using a trust in estate planning.  Burt Wellington

Wellington R. Burt did not want his children, or even his grandchildren, to inherit his wealth, which is now worth around $100 million. So he created an unusual trust, which is described in this article from

The descendants of Wellington R. Burt, who became fabulously wealthy in the age of the robber barons, will finally inherit his fortune — 92 years after his death.

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Whitney Houston's Battle vs. Step-Mom Rages On Through Appeal

While Whitney Houston was reportedly just admitted to rehab, she has one other concern that she still has to face — her no-holds-barred court fight with her late father’s widow.  Whitney Houston Trial & Heirs

In Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, Andy and Danielle Mayoras discuss the lawsuit involving Whitney Houston against Barbara Houston over a one million dollar life insurance policy. 

You can read about Whitney’s battle against her “step-mother”, including how Whitney used the public lawsuit to attack Barbara Houston and her relationship with Whitney’s father, in this excerpt from Trial & Heirs that was featured on The Huffington Post.

The case has now moved on to the Court of Appeals after Whitney scored a big victory in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey late in 2010. The Judge ruled in her favor, even though he first discussed multiple letters sent between various of Whitney Houston’s accountants and attorneys; several letters validated Barbara Houston’s claim.

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Ringling Bros. Heirs Give New Meaning To Family Feud

Irvin Feld was a rock-and-roll promoter who purchased “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1967. He created a promotion company to manage the Ringling Bros. Circus, along with Disney on Ice and monster truck shows, but none of his shows have been as eventful as what’s happened between his two children the last few years.  Ringling_bros

Feld died in his sleep in 1984. He left most of his assets and his business to his son, Kenneth. His daughter, Karen, reportedly received very little and sued her brother claiming he tried to kick her out of her house. They settled and she was allowed to remain.

Karen also sued Kenneth when he was the trustee of a $5 million trust that their uncle set up for them; that was recently settled as well. The siblings agreed to divide the trust in two so Kenneth would not manage the money left in trust for Karen.

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