VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Estate of Leona Helmsley once again at center of legal controversy

Most people associate Leona Helmsley with her time spent in prison for tax evasion, her now infamous moniker "the queen of mean," and, of course, the prolonged legal battle over her controversial estate plan, which began shortly after her passing in 2007.

To recap, Helmsley, a real estate magnate who called New York City home, was the owner of a massive portfolio valued at $4.78 billion. Upon her passing, a total of $35 million went to her brother and two out of four grandchildren, $12 million went to the care of her dog and the remainder of her wealth passed to a charitable trust.

Helmsley's heirs eventually challenged the estate plan with the end result of the litigation being a reduction in the amount of money earmarked for the care of the dog and the two disinherited grandchildren collecting $3 million each.

While you would think that this would have been the end of the matter, Helmsley's estate is once again at the epicenter of headline grabbing litigation.

Back in 2014, the four executors of Helmsley's estate -- her former lawyer, former business partner and two grandchildren who each received $10 million -- filed a petition asking the estate to cover $100 million in services rendered ($250,000 per month or $6,400 per hour) in connection with administering the "extraordinarily complex estate."

Last week, however, the charitable arm of the New York Attorney General's Office -- which has the authority to ensure that amounts left to charity aren't reduced by "excessive and unreasonable expenses" -- filed a petition challenging the "astronomical" bill and seeking to have it cut by 90 percent.     

The matter will now be decided by the New York Surrogate's Court.

Stay tuned for updates.    

If you have questions or concerns relating to probate or trust litigation, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options under state law.  

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