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Tag: leona helmsley

Ignoring Leona: Dogs have a bone to pick

If Leona Helmsley was betrayed as much in life as she is being betrayed in death, it’s easy to understand why she might have become the bitch — and we’re not talking female dog — she was so often portrayed as.

In the latest development with the wealth she left behind, a second judge has ruled, in effect, that the foundation divvying up her fortune among charitable groups need not follow her express wish that much of that money be spent on the care of dogs.

The judge denied a bid by the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and other animal groups to get a larger share of Helmsley’s billions.

Although Helmsley directed a share of her massive fortune go to “the care of dogs” — that being in addition to the $12 million she asked be left to her own dog — the Helmsley Foundation’s trustees have seen fit to dispense most of the foundation money among organizations that have little or nothing to do with canines.

According to the animal welfare groups, only about $100,000 of the $450 million the foundation has given away has gone to dog causes.

The dog charities argued they should have standing to challenge how the foundation gives away its money in light of Helmsley’s written statements and last wishes. Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS, called the $100,000 received so far ”a trifling amount, and contrary to Helmsley’s intentions.”

Surrogate’s Court Judge Nora Anderson in Manhattan rejected the bid by the animal welfare organizations to intervene in the case, agreeing with a judge who ruled earlier that the trustees have sole discretion in how to distribute the money, the New York Post reported yesterday.

She said she feared the groups’ challenge could open the floodgates to countless lawsuits from dog organizations around the world.

It’s hardly the first time Helmsley’s last wishes have been overruled since her death: Of that $12 million she left in her will for the care of her Maltese, named Trouble, a judge reduced the amount to $2 million.

Beyond what she intended to leave for the care and feeding of Trouble, Helmsley had another $5 to $8 billion, according to estimates of the trust’s worth.

Helmsley, who died in 2007, wrote in a 2004 mission statement for the trust that she wanted that money used for “1) purposes related to the provision or care of dogs and 2) such other charitable activities as the Trustees shall determine.”

In 2009, though, the Surrogate’s Court found that the mission statement did not place any legal restrictions on what donations could be made from the trust.

Later that year, the ASPCA, the Humane Society and Maddie’s Fund, filed a motion asking the court to vacate its earlier order and allow them to intervene. The primary interest of those groups was not, of course, in seeing solely that Helmsley’s wishes were honored, but neither, it seems, are the foundation’s. The animal welfare groups’ goals seem more aligned with her wishes, though.

By all descriptions, the so-called ”queen of mean” was a hard-hearted woman, with one soft spot — dogs.

The foundation doling out her fortune doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for dogs, or for Helmsley.

I’m no legal expert, just a dog lover, and I’m not asking for Trouble.  But if I arranged to leave my fortune – non-existent though it may currently be — to my dog Ace, or anywhere else, and you didn’t carry out my wishes, you can be sure I’d be back to haunt you.

I’d show you mean.

Heiress leaves mansion, $3 million to dogs

Gail Posner, the daughter of corporate-takeover king Victor Posner, has bequeathed her $8.3 million Miami mansion and a $3 million trust fund to her dogs, the New York Post reports.

Also named in the will were seven personal aides, including bodyguards and housekeepers, who were given a total of $26 million — and the right to live rent-free in the mansion while caring for the animals, according to court papers.

The 67-year-old heiress died in March.

Posner had three pets, including a Chihuahua named Conchita that she once called “one of the world’s most spoiled dogs.”

Gail Posner’s only living son, Hollywood screenwriter Bret Carr, has filed a lawsuit claiming his mom was drugged and “brainwashed” by her aides into leaving so much to her dogs.

In a 2007 interview, Posner admitted to buying a $15,000 diamond-studded Cartier necklace for Conchita. and once considered buying him his own Range Rover.

Posner changed her will in 2008, after she was already dying from cancer, and added the vast sums for her pups and workers.

The case is reminiscent of that of hotel heiress Leona Helmsley, who left $12 million to her Maltese, named Trouble, while snubbing two of her grandkids. A judge later knocked the amount the dog would receive down to a mere $2 million.

(Photo: Miami Herald)

Dog charities seek more of Helmsley fortune

Three animal welfare groups are accusing the trustees of Leona Helmsley’s multibillion-dollar estate of ignoring her wishes that the bulk of her fortune should go to dogs.

In a court petition filed yesterday, the animal advocates said the trustees have shown “disdain” for Helmsley’s wishes by donating only $100,000 of $137 million doled out so far to dog welfare.

The petition was filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Maddie’s Fund, according to an Associated Press report.

The groups want the court to throw out a judge’s February decision that gave the trustees for the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust sole authority to determine which charities would benefit from her estate.

Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of the Humane Society, said dog welfare was “the only charitable interest specifically designated in the trust instrument. … But what we’ve seen is an utter disdain for the cause of animal welfare and a complete writing off of the animal welfare concern.”

In April, the  trustees gave away $136 million to hospitals, foundations and the homeless. Just $100,000 went to an animal-welfare group, the ASPCA. Another $900,000 went to groups that train guide dogs for the blind.

The trust, in a statement posted on its Web site, said Helmsley, who died in 2007, never wanted her fortune just to go to dogs: “Did Leona Helmsley intend for this charitable trust to focus on the care and help of dogs, rather than people? Absolutely not,” the statement said.

Helmsley, whose fortune was estimated at $5 billion to $8 billion after her death at age 87, also named her dog, Trouble, as a beneficiary, leaving a $12 million trust fund for the white Maltese. A judge later reduced Trouble’s take to $2 million.

Snoopy edges Lassie in AOL poll

snoopySnoopy beat out Lassie, but just barely, in a recent poll conducted on behalf of the new AOL pet website, PawNation.com.

Both Lassie and Snoopy captured 39 percent of the votes for “favorite celebrity animal,” but Snoopy edged the beloved, but fading from memory collie by 14 votes. Garfield and Scooby Doo trailed with 12 and 11 percent, respectively.

The survey covered other important issues as well.

Asked “which celebrity pet’s passing did you mourn the most?” Oprah’s deceased dog Sophie came in at the top, followed by Mickey Rourke’s chihuahua, Loki.

In other results from the poll, the honors for ”craziest pet owner” went to Leona Helmsley, with Paris Hilton a distant second. And the celebrity picked as the one people would most trust to watch their pet was Jennifer Aniston, who captured a whopping 70 percent of the vote, beating out Mickey Rourke, Pam Anderson and Nicole Richie.

Almost half of the respondents said their pets sleep in their beds every night, and more than fourth said they did some sometimes.

(Graphic: from redkid’s ”Snoopy Says Generator”)

Dogs miss out on most of Helmsley’s millions

Trustees of real estate baroness Leona Helmsley’s estate say they’re giving $136 million to charity — and only $1 million of that is going to the dogs.

Animal rights groups rejoiced last year at reports that Helmsley, who died in 2007 at age 87, wanted her entire multibillion-dollar fortune to go to dog-related charities

But a court ruled in February that the trustees had authority to decide which charities could receive funds. Apparently dogs — and Helmsley’s wishes — rated pretty low in the decision-making process. The judge’s decision did not affect the $12 million Helmsley bequeathed to her Maltese, Trouble.

Helmsley’s estate yesterday announced its first round of charitable grants. The largest, $40 million, went to New York’s Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Most of the money went to health care systems across the country, Newsday reported today.

Helmsley’s estate distributed $1 million to 10 animal rights groups, including $100,000 to the ASPCA.

Maryland considers law permitting pet trusts

Maybe you’re no Leona Helmsley, and have no plans to leave your dog $12 million to assure he continue living in the luxurious manner to which he has become accustomed. 

Maybe you’re no Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress who, in addition to bequeathing large amounts to animal organizations in her will, left $100,000 in a trust for the care and feeding of her dog.

Maybe you’re not even a Dusty Springfield, the 60′s era British singer who specified in her will that, after her death, the friend caring for her cat, Nicholas, ensure that he sleep in a bed lined with her nightgown, that he be fed his favorite imported baby food, and that her recordings — You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, for example — be played each night at his bedtime.

That doesn’t mean that you might not want to look into making some sane and basic arrangements — even if it’s just an informal agreement with a good friend — in the event your pet outlives you.

About 500,000 animals are killed in shelters and veterinary offices each year after their owners die, according to a Consumer Reports article on pet trusts, originally published in 2007.

If you live in Maryland, though, establishing a pet trust hasn’t been an option. We’re one of 11 states with no legally binding way to ensure that a portion of an estate will be spent on an animals’ care. A bill to change that was approved by the House of Delegates yesterday and will now be considered by the Senate.

If it passes, Maryland would become one of 40 states, including Virginia, that allow residents to establish legal trusts for their pets.

Under the proposed law in Maryland, no more could be set aside than was needed to care for an animal and courts could overrule pet lovers who tried to leave millions to their pets and order that the money be given to other heirs.

Under current Maryland law, residents can name a caretaker for their pets in their wills and ask that a sum of money be set aside for the pets’ care. But if the designated caretaker proves unable or unwilling to care for their pets, there is no guarantee that the deceased’s wishes will be followed. Under the legislation, a court would enforce the terms of the trust, requiring that the money set aside go only to care for designated animals, according to a Washington Post article.

“The states and courts should recognize that there’s an important human-animal bond,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, which has pushed for such legislation nationwide. “People want the peace of mind of knowing that their pets will be cared for.”

The bill is being sponsored by two professed animal lovers: Del. A. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County), who has two cats, and Del. John A. Olszewski Jr. (D-Baltimore County), who owns a 2-year-old border collie-chow mix.

“You work hard for what you earn,” Olszewski said. “You should be able to decide how its spent after your death.”

All of Helmsley’s riches won’t go to the dogs

Contrary to her wishes, billions of dollars designated for dogs in Leona Helmsley’s will won’t go solely to canine causes.

The judge overseeing the probate of Helmsley’s will has ruled that the billions of dollars that will flow into the charitable trust she created do not have to be spent solely for the care and welfare of dogs.

The judge’s decision does not affect the $12 million Helmsley bequeathed to her Maltese, Trouble (above), who was the biggest named beneficiary in her will.

The judge, Troy K. Webber, said that the trustees who control the trust may distribute the money as they see fit. The ruling, dated last Thursday, was reported in today’s New York Times.

“The court finds that the trustees may apply trust funds for such charitable purposes and in such amounts as they may, in their sole discretion, determine,” Judge Webber wrote.

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