Helmsley estate case
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2009:
NEW YORK CITY–The Humane Society of the U.S., Maddie’s
Fund, and the American SPCA on August 11, 2009 asked the Manhattan
Surrogate Court to overturn a February 2009 ruling by Judge Troy K.
Webber that allowed the trustees of the late hotelier Leona
Helmsley’s estate to allocate about $5 billion to human service
charities, instead of for the benefit of dogs, as Helmsley asked in
her will. The trustees in April 2009 distributed $136 million to
human service charities, $900,000 to charities that train guide
dogs, and $100,000 to the ASPCA, the only animal charity named.
Helmsley, who died in 2007 at age 87, wrote her will in
2003. She also set up a $12 million trust fund for her Maltese dog
Trouble, but Judge Webber cut that amount to $2 million.
There are few precedents for reinstating a bequest meant to
benefit animals, once dismissed by a judge.
“This is a huge hill to climb,” Maddie’s Fund executive
director Richard Avanzino told James Barron of The New York Times.
But Avanzino won one of the possible precedents, as then-president
of the San Francisco SPCA, when in 1981 an estate required a healthy
dog named Sido to be killed, ostensibly for her own good. The
positive public response to saving Sido convinced Avanzino to pursue
no-kill sheltering as first a local and later national goal.