Leona Helmsley Feed

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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Florida millionaire left more to her dogs than her son

Apparently Leona Helmsley is not alone.  Gail Posner of Miami Beach, Florida passed away in March at the age of 67, from cancer.  Her only son, Bret Carr, was left one million dollars, despite not being close with her in the years leading up to her death.  They did reunite while she was on her deathbed, in the hospital, according to CarrGai Posner.

So should Carr really complain?  A million dollars isn't so bad.

The first problem, says Carr, is that his mother's three dogs received a $3 million trust fund and a $8.3 million mansion.  But who can put a price on loyalty?

There's more.  Posner's former staff (including bodyguards, a personal trainer and housekeepers) get $27 million.  Wow -- that's some severance package!

Carr says he and his mother had a rocky relationship, but grew closer in the last decade or so, until 2008.  What happened then?  The staff kicked him out of Posner's house and convinced his mother to keep him away.  He says he captured it all on video.

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Leona Helmsley charity battle rages on

As I described in this article from February 2009, the trustees of the Leona Helmsley charitable trust asked the probate court in New York for permission to donate primarily to charities that helped people rather than dogs, despite some language in the trust that suggested she wanted her billions to benefits animal charities.  Leona_Helmsley_Trial_and_Heirs

Specifically, the trust had a Mission Statement that included, as its first purpose "the provision of the care for dogs".  But it also gave the trustees discretion to benefit charities as they saw fit.  This is a very important decisions for many charities (not to mention the people or animals they help) because we're talking about several billion dollars. 

This August, several different animal charities, including the Humane Society and American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, launched a legal challenge to the judge's ruling to force the trustees to support animal charities.  Reportedly, the trustees so far have donated very little to help dogs.

There was a big question whether these charities even had proper "standing" to bring this action (meaning whether or not they had the legal ability to challenge the judge's ruling even though they were not named beneficiaries).  So far, their challenge has been allowed to proceed.

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Court tells Leona Helmsley trustees "no need to dog it"

Trust attorneys come across all kinds of strange wishes.  Many people like leaving money for pets; sometimes they take their animal fondness to absurd levels.

Leona Helmsley was known to all as the “Queen of Mean.”  She gained fame in the late 1980s when she was charged with -– and found guilty of -– tax evasion.  She reportedly felt that “Only the little people pay taxes.”  Leona_Helmsley

Maybe she regretted her ways in later life.  After she died in 2007, it was publicly revealed that her trust left the bulk of her vast estate -- reportedly worth four to eight billion dollars -- to charity.  Or more specifically, to benefit dogs.  She left her own dog, a Maltese named Trouble, the biggest share, with a $12 million dollar trust fund.  Earlier court proceedings reduced this amount considerably.

Recently, a probate judge in New York answered the remaining big question -- did she really want to leave all of that money for dogs alone?  Her trust's mission statement directed that her money be used for the care and welfare of dogs.  Initially, she wanted to help indigent people first, and dogs second.  But Helmsley apparently changed her mind (maybe the "little people" didn't deserve her money after all) and removed the part about helping poor people and left only instructions to benefit dogs.

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