Schedule a Call

Fill in your details below and we'll have one of our product specialists contact you.


Dead Hand Control

Wills can be powerful instruments, as the
will of Leona Helmsley makes clear.

The hotelier and real estate mogul became a
symbol of 1980s greed and was given the
nickname ”the Queen of Mean” after
revelations of her tyrannical treatment of
employees came to light during her 1988 trial
on tax evasion charges. A housekeeper
testified that she heard Helmsley say, ”Only
the little people pay taxes.” Helmsley was
convicted and served 19 months in prison and
recently died at age 87 with an estimated $4
billion estate.

Among the provisions in Helmsley’s will:

    * Two of her grandchildren are to receive
$10 million each, but they will lose half of
that if they fail to visit their father’s
grave at least once a year. They must sign a
guest registry at the tomb to prove they were

    * Helmsley’s other two grandchildren
received nothing under the will "for reasons
which are known to them." (According to
Wikipedia, "It has been alleged that these
‘reasons’ were a failure to name any of their
children after her late husband," Harry Helmsley.

    * Her $1.4 million mausoleum must be
"acid-washed or steam-cleaned" once a year,
and $3 million was set aside for this.

    * Helmsley ordered that her beloved
8-year-old Maltese, Trouble, be buried with
her upon the dog’s demise. Unfortunately, New
York state has already nixed this provision
because state law prohibits animals from
being buried in cemeteries for humans.

But Trouble, who appeared in ads for the
Helmsley Hotels and lived up to her name by
allegedly biting a housekeeper repeatedly,
nevertheless was the will’s big winner,
receiving a $12 million trust fund. (By
comparison, Helmsley’s chauffeur received a
mere $100,000.)

Legal commentators have said that the bequest
to Trouble is the most likely provision to
spell trouble for the estate. According to an
article in Slate magazine, if Helmsley
provided for Trouble under a "statutory pet
trust," it could be challenged in New York if
it "substantially exceeds the amount required
for the intended use." (Maltese typically
live 15 years or more.) Courts would be less
likely to reduce the canine’s windfall if
Helmsley set up a traditional pet trust. We
don’t know which type of trust it was because
trusts, unlike wills, are not public documents.

In any case, if some of the $12 million were
to be diverted from cans of premium dog food
and pricey toys to gnaw on, it would likely
be go to Helmsley’s charitable trust, which
received the bulk of her estate,
approximately $2.5 billion. Helmsley
established the trust in 1999 to benefit
religious or educational causes, groups that
work to protect children and other charities.

The disinherited grandchildren could
challenge the will on the grounds that
Helmsley lacked the capacity to execute it
when she did in 2005, although the chances of
success appear doubtful.

Another potentially problematic provision of
the will is that it names no fewer than five
individuals as as Executors/Trustees —
Helmsley’s brother, her lawyer, her two
grandsons, and a friend.

To read Leona Helmsley’s will, <a

For a legal analysis of the will by Prof.
Gerry Beyer, editor of the Wills, Trusts and
Estates Prof Blog, <a
here</a> (and scroll down).

For the article in Slate magazine, <a
here. </a>

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

Get Your FREE Report Now!

Three Reports Tell Secrets to Paying for Nursing Home Care

Simply enter your name and email to the right to get
your 3 Free Reports that reveal little known secrets to qualifying for Medicaid without going broke.

Plus, receive the Morton Law Firm email newsletter and alerts to upcoming education events absolutely free!

Morton Book

Call Us (601)925-9797 or Email Us

Copyright 2018 Morton Law Firm, LLC | Privacy | Disclaimer | Sitemap