Helmsley billions not just for dogs

 

A US judge has ruled that the multibillion-dollar fortune that late property baroness Leona Helmsley purportedly wanted donated exclusively for the care of dogs can be used for other charitable purposes as well.

Helmsley’s fortune had been estimated at $5 billion to $8 billion after her death, although the shrinking value of property in recent times has certainly eroded it.

Trustees managing the fortune of the 87-year-old Helmsley’s estate since she died in 2007 sought a surrogate court ruling to determine whether Helmsley had intended to donate her entire fortune to dog-related charities or not.

Animal rights groups had rejoiced a year ago at public reports that Helmsley, sometimes called “the Queen of Mean” for the imperious way she treated her staff, had wanted her entire fortune to be donated to care for dogs.

But Manhattan surrogate judge Troy Webber’s February 19th ruling found that the legal documents left by Helmsley allowed the trustees to “apply trust funds for such charitable purposes and in such amounts as they may, in their sole discretion, determine”.

The hotel queen’s will named her own dog, Trouble, as a beneficiary, while explicitly leaving out two of her grandchildren.

But the Maltese isn’t quite as well-heeled as she used to be. In April, a Manhattan judge reduced the trust fund for the nine-year-old dog from $12 million to $2 million.

A spokesman for the trustees said that the fund would announce initial grants next month. “In the hope that this would be the court’s decision, the trustees have been diligently working to identify potential grantees so the trust’s funds would be put to optimal use as soon as possible in such areas a healthcare, medical research, human services, education and various other areas,” he said.

The Humane Society of the United States said it hoped Helmsley’s estate still would benefit dog-related causes. “Her fortune has the potential to do so much good for the animals many consider to be our closest friends and companions,” society president Wayne Pacelle said in a statement.