Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The Humane Society, the ASPCA, and Maddie's Fund filed a lawsuit in New York surrogate court, seeking to intervene in the $5 billion estate of Leona Helmsley and charging that Helmsley's express wish to help dogs has been ignored. According to a press release from the ASPCA:
The three organizations believe that State Attorneys General have a responsibility to protect the wishes of any heir or heiress, and also to protect the entire charitable sector from the whims of trustees who wish to ignore detailed and unambiguous estate planning instructions. In this case, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo failed in his charge to protect these interests.
. . .
The Trustees disregarded Mrs. Helmsley's wishes and obtained court sanction for doing so. The process deprived the parties most affected by their decision -- dog welfare charities -- of any fair opportunity to have a say on the issue. Neither the Trustees nor the Attorney General contacted any of these three nonprofit organizations, which are widely recognized as the leading advocates for dog welfare in the country if not the world -- or any other organization that might speak up on behalf of the charitable community that Mrs. Helmsley had a right to expect would receive "special emphasis" in the Trustees' grant-making.
After a judicial ruling without hearing from the only charitable category of recipients specifically listed in Mrs. Helmsley's mission statement, the trustees distributed the initial round of grants from Mrs. Helmsley's trust, blatantly disregarding Mrs. Helmsley's express wishes. The trustees allocated less than .1 percent to dog welfare charities.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this to my attention.