Thursday, August 30, 2007
The full text of the Last Will and Testament of Leona M. Helmsley is now available on-line.
Here is my detailed analysis of this will:
Technical Details: The will is 14 pages long (mostly single-spaced) including the self-proving affidavit. Leona signed the will on July 15, 2005. The names of the three witnesses are blotted out. I assume this was done for publication purposes and that the names are not blotted out on the original. The will lacks a notation of the drafting attorney's name.
Body Disposition Instructions: Although not the preferred place for body disposition instructions given that a person's will is typically not available until after the burial or cremation, Leona included several instructions in her will such as her desire to be interred wearing her gold wedding band and to be placed next to her predeceased husband (Harry) and predeceased son (Jay) at the Helmsley Mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery (Bronx, New York).
Mausoleum: Leona granted permission for her brother (Alvin) and his wife (Susan) to also be interred in the mausoleum. She also stated that no one else may be interred there. She created "The Helmsley Perpetual Care Trust" with $3 million. The trust will maintain not just her mausoleum but also the burial places of various other family members. Among other instructions is the requirement that the mausoleums be "acid washed or steam cleaned at least once a year." The trustees must inspect the mausoleums at least once every three months.
Outright Gifts: Leona made the following outright (not in trust) bequests:
- Brother (Alvin) = $5 million
- Grandson (David) = $5 million
- Grandson (Walter) = $5 million
- Chauffeur (Nicholas) = $100,000
Gifts in Trust: With the intent of providing "a flow of income," Leona left $10 million in trust for her brother (Alvin) and $5 million in trust for each of David and Walter (two of her four grandsons). Upon the death of a trust beneficiary, the remaining trust assets will pass to The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The trusts are "charitable remainder unitrusts" entitling the beneficiary to 5% of the net fair market value of the assets each year. David and Walter may not receive distributions unless they visit their father's grave (Leona's son) at least once each calendar year, "preferable on the anniversary of [Jay's] death," unless they are physically or mentally unable to do so. If a grandchild misses just one unexcused time, the trust for that grandchild ends. The trustees must keep a register at the mausoleum to be signed by each visitor and they are to look in this book to determine if the grandchild has made the required visit.
Pet Provisions: Leona left her dog, Trouble, to her brother (Alvin). She also left $12 million to the Leona Helmsley July 2005 Trust. This is the "pet trust" for Trouble's care. The exact terms of this trust are unknown because the trust was create inter vivos (while Leona was alive) and is not required to be placed on the public record.
Express Disinheritance: Leona expressly "cut out" her other two grandchildren (Craig and Meegan) "for reasons that are known to them."
Things Bearing the Name Helmsley: Leona directed that "anything" with the name Helmsley must be maintained in "mint" condition. This request will be difficult to enforce. No money was left to carry out this request and she did not place any limitation on the items with the Helmsley name -- it could be items from different families who just happen to share the same last name. A court may conclude that this request is too vague to be enforceable.
Residuary: The balance of her estate (many billions of dollars) will pass to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Like the pet trust, the exact terms of this trust are unknown.
No-Contest Clause: Leona included an in terrorem provision.
Fiduciaries: Loena named five people as co-executors/co-trustees: Alvin (brother), David (grandson), Walter (grandson), Sandor Frankel (attorney), and John Codey (friend). If less than three are able to serve as executors, or less than two as trustees, than a corporate fiduciary is to serve instead with priority given to Citibank of New York. Individual fidicaries are to receive reasonable compensation but not statutory commissions. Leona waived bond and included an exculpatory provision.
Administration Instructions: The executors must sell all of Leona's personal residences and all of her tangible person property. Thus, none of her personal affects, even jewelry and heirloom items, will pass to family members unless the executors sell the items to family members.