Leona Helmsley left money in her trust for the care of her
dog. She apparently also wanted her trust to
provide for the welfare of dogs. If, in her will and, or, trust, she
did not leave money to a specific dog welfare charity, then a court could
determine her intent based on many factors including her own words and
Three animal welfare organizations are suing Mrs. Helmsley’s
trustees and the state’s attorney general for their failure to abide by her wishes (Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog, Animal Welfare Organizations File Suit Over Helmsley Estate Administration, August 12, 2009). She would likely be upset knowing that her trustees provided such a
small sum of money to dog welfare charities if reports are true that her trust was also intended to provide help to dog welfare organizations.
One way Mrs. Helmsley could have avoided this result was to
have left specific sums of money or assets to specific charities. Instead of stating her wish to benefit dog welfare organizations, she should have chosen one or more such organizations (here, the HSUS, the ASPCA, and Maddie’s Fund would be obvious contenders) and listed them clearly, including the specific amount or percentage amount she wanted each organization to receive. Her trustees would have to honor her wishes, and if clearly stated, could not argue that her intent is ambiguous.
Clarity and specificity in your will and
trust will make it easier to have your intent fulfilled and greatly reduce