Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Leona Helmsley's Will -- A Detailed Analysis

Helmsley_troubleThe 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.


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That Leona Helmsley. She's going out with just as much critical attention as she garnered in life as the Queen of Mean. Her death earlier this month was blogged here. Now Helmsley's will has been made public. And we learn that the hotel mogul left $12 ... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 30, 2007 9:24:39 AM


Leona Helmsley's will left 12 million dollars to her canine companion. I completely understand how Leona Helmsley adored her dog - many of us love ours deeply, too. I just wish she would have shown her love for all dogs, or even all animals, and not just her own particular dog. Imagine how many pets could have been spayed and neutered for that amount of money, or how many dogs could have been saved from the evils of dogfighting. Her little shih tzu will not know the difference between a diamond-encrusted collar, and one bought from Target. I hope the brother she appointed to be her dog's caretaker, will keep other animals in mind as well. What is good for the animal kingdom, is good for one cute little spoiled pooch.

Nancy J. Cronk
Founder, Chair and Chaplain
Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains

Posted by: Animal Chaplain Nancy | Aug 30, 2007 9:40:11 AM

Dear Ms. Cronk,

As the bulk of Ms. Helmsley's estate will go to her charitable foundation it will benefit others; whether or not this includes other pets (or other animal species) we cannot tell from her Will since the Trust is not published here.

Although it is difficult to imagine what a dog could need that would amount to $12 million, I must observe that veterinary medicine is fast approaching the type of health care crisis we see with humans. So, it is possible that the dog will need $12 million before its life is over. And if anything is left that goes to charity.

After all is said and done, the "Queen of Mean" really did have a heart. Most people have one somewhere-- reaching it is the bugbear. Little Trouble, obviously, found the way.

Posted by: Marilyn Willis | Sep 1, 2007 3:26:18 PM

I had personally corresponded with Leona Helmsley for over eighteen years. Starting in 1990 and ending a week before her passing. I never knew her as someone other then an appreciative, grateful, polite person. The correspondence that I received was always handwritten and very friendly. Sometimes when people have a hurt in their life they become the whole essence of what that hurt did to our soul. I pray that in death she has found the love and peace that often eluded her life.

May the joys of her happiest memories be doubled as she is laid to her final rest.
May she recall the shared memories and that those joys be doubled on earth and in heaven.
For love inspired by a glad moment illuminates the heart, transcending time & space.
Hope inspired comforts a weary soul and troubled heart.
May all life's best be hers for the asking in the place where she must now travel to alone.
As she lifts her eyes to the stars above that welcome her with open arms
May she remember all the gifts of love that were given freely to her
And may any hurts that she had caused be forgiven and cast away.
May there be not a bitter sea but only hearts of peace on the waves of time passing.
May there be love given openly and received unconditionally in the lives of those left behind.
May there be a gentle hand to wipe away a child’s tear that may not understand
And a smile to comfort the saddened heart that grieves at the lose of what might have been.

Posted by: Pam | Nov 2, 2007 7:54:36 AM

While that $12million could help alot of dogs in need such as one of my foster dogs named Beethoven, who went blind this yr and his owner dumped him for that reason. A $2k surgery would restore his sight but Leona is not responsible for other peoples dogs. Eveyone is so focused on the money in this story. I only hope that Trouble gets the love, attention, pampering and health care she deserves. The dog lost her owner and no amount of money can replace that relationship. I only wish i could care for that dog and show it the love it still deserves. I have a canine hydrotherapy business in WA state and I love to pamper my clients dogs as well as my own. I save dogs off of death row and provide them with wonderful fresh food (no killer kibble) and warm heated beds, and home made organic meat balls and lots of love. I swim them in a heated pool to help their arthritis and give them special supplements to hellp them feel their best. I do this for my own dogs and for dogs i find in the street or save from death row. I dont have alot of money but i do have alot of love and appreciation. I never want any creature to pass without knowing it is loved. I wish i could care for Trouble and give it the love in my heart that is stored up for fur kids. I find it sad that everyone is worried about the $12 million in this story and no one seems to care about the fact that this dog has health issues with its kidney and throid. I have a dog named Darby who i treated holistically for cancer. She overcame and lived for 2 more years. Her story reached around the world. Read her full story on my website at www.pamperedpawswimspa.com I only hope that someone will care for Trouble the way i was able to care for and love my Darby dog. My concern is for Trouble...Why is everyone so concerned about what someone does with $12 million dollars?? I think the dog is worth much more than that even without it's inheritance. One is just paper and one is a living heartbeat.

Tonita Fernandez

Posted by: Tonita | Mar 16, 2008 8:42:44 PM

I congratulate Ms. Helmsley for her decision to protect animals. I am hoping her trust fund is in the hands of animal lovers, like myself.

There is so much that can be done on behalf of animals with this amount of money. Many beautiful species are being driven to near extinction. This is horribly tragic in the eyes of God, who has created all wonderful creatures.

I disagree with many practices of the ASPCA, although many of their practices are honorable.

We must protect God's creatures, without the thought of money. That is why God created Noah's arc, long ago.

The torturing and disregard for God's precious animals is a path that will surely land anyone in Hell. May they get the same treatment that they have given to the beautiful creatures of this planet.

My prayer is that this money can truly be given to protect God's beautiful creations.

There is Federal land in my state (North Carolina) that is being fought over by evil scientists from Homeland Security. I believe they will torture animals of all species there.

I hope someone with power an influence can perhaps donate money to an "enchanted forest", create a proposal notifying the EPA, and other agencies

Posted by: Crystal Cabot | Sep 7, 2008 8:49:01 AM

Let's be honest, I love dogs but this is crazy.

Posted by: Joe the Dog Lover | Sep 9, 2008 10:00:32 AM

Making a will should never be ignored. We never know what might happen to us. Hence, it would be better to be prepared and list down the things that we want to pass on to the special people in our lives. Anyway, thank you for this article. I learned lots from it.

You might also be interested in an article I stumbled upon. The article also talks about drafting your will.

Read the original article here

Posted by: Saccha | Aug 11, 2010 9:26:03 PM

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