The Will of the Queen of Mean

The Queen of Mean is certainly not a moniker many would choose to embrace. Billionaire Leona Helmsely was branded with the title years ago by the press. She died in 2007 and left some interesting provisions in her will.

Who Was She?

Some people may not remember her. She and her husband made their money in the New York real estate business with ownership in the Park Lane Hotel and the Empire State Building. She was known to have a flamboyant personality and tyrannical behavior. She was mega rich but often failed to pay her contractors. She even served time in prison for tax invasion.

Terms of Her Will

One of the first of many instructions stated that she wanted to be buried wearing her gold wedding band which is to never be removed from her finger. The second interesting instruction was for her Executors to sell all her personal residences and all her personal property and put the proceeds in a trust.

Her Resting Place

The Hemsley family had a mausoleum where her husband and son were “buried.” To ensure the mausoleum would receive the best care and inspections a minimum of 3 times per year, she left $3M in a trust. Her mausoleum must have been special because she wanted her dog buried next to her. She recognized that the court may decide that was an exorbitant amount and could reduce the amount, so she made a provision that any excess money would be paid to her charitable trust.

For Her Family

She created trusts for the purposes of providing income to her two grandsons for $5M each and $10M to her brother. She instructed that each would receive 5% of the net value of each year as income. When the beneficiary of the trust passes away, she directed their trust to be distributed to her charitable trust. She also left her 2 grandsons and her brother each $5M in cash.

The Chauffer and the Dog

Her chauffer was given $100,000, but the real winner was her dog, a white Maltese. She left $12M in a trust to care for her dog, but the judge reduced the amount to $2M. The dog died four years later, but that must have been a great 4 years. The dog received $100,000 worth of care annually and even had its own security guard due to numerous death threats.

Strings Attached

So far, the generous bequests do not seem that she warranted the name Queen of Mean. She did not totally cut out her grandchildren. However, these bequests came with conditions. For her grandson’s to receive any money from the trust, they are required to visit their father’s grave at least once a year. You may ask how anyone would know if they visited. Well, she instructed a register to be placed inside the mausoleum for each visitor to sign. If they fail to visit at least once a year, then they lost the money from the trust forever. It was not simply a matter of losing the money for one year. They would never receive any more money.

Don’t Challenge Her

What if any of her beneficiaries did not like the terms of the will? She also included a “no contest” clause that stated that if any beneficiary files any objections to the will or attempts to prevent the probate of the will, that person and their children or other descendants would receive nothing.

Conclusion

To discuss terms for your last will and testament, contact me at the Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr., PLLC at 210-854-5700 or fill out a contact form at www.TexasWillsLawyer.com.

About Hugh

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Hugh has been practicing law since 1995. He served 20 years in the Air Force JAG Corps as an attorney, where he provided estate planning for military members, retirees and their dependents. He understands the inconvenience and burden of traveling to an attorney’s office, yet he appreciates the importance of obtaining legal services when you need it.

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