Talk Back: Lawsuit Against Helmsley Trustees

By on August 21, 2009 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Many of you expressed satisfaction at the news earlier this month that The HSUS, the ASPCA and Maddie's Fund jointly filed legal action against the trustees of Leona Helmsley's $5.3 billion estate. Helmsley had directed that her foundation place special emphasis on the care and welfare of dogs in its allocation of grants, but the trustees have decided to pursue their own agenda, allocating less than .1 percent of grants to dog welfare. Mrs. Helmsley's intentions as a donor and an animal lover were clear and that made it necessary for us to intervene in the trustees’ abuse of her trust and their misdirection of her funds.

We’ll keep you apprised of the progress of our lawsuit. In the meantime, here are some of your thoughts on the matter:

I am glad the animal welfare groups are going to court against the Helmsley trustees. Leona's wishes were not carried out by the trustees, whom she foolishly trusted to carry out her wishes. The animals deserve the money according to the mission statement she left. Leona also would be devastated by the fact that the judge took away money from her beloved Maltese Trouble. —Ann Alpert

Bravo, Wayne!!! When I learned what the trustees had done, I was livid! Since when is it okay to tamper with the deceased's wishes, especially when they were so explicitly written? I am very grateful that HSUS, ASPCA and Maddie's Fund have filed a lawsuit to overturn these unconscionable actions. The consequences of not challenging this outcome could be disastrous for people everywhere who care about animals and want to provide for them when they are gone. Thank you! Keep up the GREAT work! —Susan

I am so glad that the animal community is doing something about this…it absolutely infuriates me that they are going against her specific wishes! I read an article on it in the Philanthropy News Digest a couple months ago and have hoped that someone would step up. I am also a huge animal lover so that plays a part in my attention to this issue but it just seems wrong at a fundamental level—and illegal. Thanks so much for taking this on! —Tonya Formby

Just think if even 10 percent of this money was used for spay and neuter programs? —Tee

This is outrageous. What is estate planning for if not to outline one's wishes for their estate after death?! This happens too often—with universities as one example—where a donor's intent is ignored or side-stepped. Every person who sets up a trust needs to have a co-trustee that is not an institution or is, in addition to an institution, an advocate that will ensure the intent of the donor is fully executed. Please keep us posted, and if there are offices/people we can call, please let those of us who read your blog regularly know. —Candis Stern

I am appalled about this information. What does this say about any of our choices upon our death? I am very upset with the actions of Cuomo and will pay attention in the future as to decisions he makes. A gift like this to support our animals is wonderful. What can I do to help? —Ginny Geerdes

I am glad you are keeping this issue in the light. I don’t know too much about her but it’s obvious she loved dogs. I will contact the New York Attorney General since I am a New York resident. I did not know he sided with the trustees. He should be exposed as not a friend to animals as New York has plenty of animal lovers. —John Gilligan

Unconscionable. I am so disappointed in Andrew Cuomo. —Gerie Madak

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