Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More Leona Helmsley Tidbits

HelmsleyTerms of "Pet Trust" -- There has been a huge interest in the terms of the Leona Helmsley July 2005 Trust which probably contains all of the details regarding Trouble's care and what happens to any unspent funds upon the dog's death.  This would indeed be a fascinating document to examine!

Value of Leona Helmsley's Estate -- According to Peter Grant, Will Helmsley's Dath Break Up Her Empire?, Wall St. J., Aug. 21, 2007, at B1, Leona's estate is worth at least $2.5 billion.

Trouble -- At the time of her death, Leona was too incapacitated to take care of Trouble.  Rumor also has it that the dog was taken away because it bit some of her advisors.

Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust -- According to the same article, "[i]n recent years it has primarily been making donations to medical facilities that have been involved in her care, like New York-Presbyterian and Greenwich Hospital."

Capacity to Execute Will -- The best chance the grandchildren would have at obtaining $600 million or more each would be to set aside Leona's will on the basis that she lacked capacity when she wrote it.  According to the same article, "her mental abilities * * * were slipping."   Leona signed the will on July 15, 2005.  It will be interesting to see if her grandchildren decide to contest with such a big incentive to do so.  I would think, however, that Leona's attorney has a huge file of material to support Leona's capacity at the time of will execution such as affidavits of the witnesses, friends, doctors, etc., a video-recording of the will execution ceremony, etc.  And, perhaps the originals of prior wills so that if this will is deemed invalid, the property passes under a prior will rather than via intestacy.

Great-Grandchildren -- Leona had 12 great-grandchildren.  None of them are beneficiaries of her will.

Satisfying the once per year grave visit -- For David and Walter to receive distributions from their trusts, they must visit their father's (Leona's son) gravesite "at least once each calendar year."  As pointed out to me by several people, this could be satisfied in a few minutes for two years if the visit was near midnight on January 1.  The grandchild could sign the register a few minutes before (meeting the requirement for the December year) and then a few minutes after midnight (meeting the requirement for the January year).

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for providing sending me the Wall Street Journal article discussed above and for sharing his thoughts on the "once per year grave visit" issue.


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