The New York Times (free subscription required)
By Stephanie Strom
Sure, the hotelier and real estate magnate Leona Helmsley left $12 million in her will to her dog, Trouble. But that, it turns out, is nothing much compared with what other dogs may receive from the charitable trust of Mrs. Helmsley, who died last August.
Her instructions, specified in a two-page “mission statement,” are that the entire trust, valued at $5 billion to $8 billion and amounting to virtually all her estate, be used for the care and welfare of dogs, according to two people who have seen the document and who described it on condition of anonymity.
It is by no means clear, however, that all the money will go to dogs. Another provision of the mission statement says Mrs. Helmsley’s trustees may use their discretion in distributing the money, and some lawyers say the statement may not mean much anyway, given that its directions were not incorporated into Mrs. Helmsley’s will or the trust documents.
Even if the resulting total is at the low end of the estimate — $5 billion or so — the trust will be worth almost 10 times the combined assets of all 7,381 animal-related nonprofit groups reporting to the Internal Revenue Service in 2005. Read the rest here.
So what responsibility do her foundation trustees have to making sure that the money is spent effectively? What about donor intent? Should all of the money really go to the care of dogs, even if the amount of the gift dwarfs the nonprofit sector's ability to utilize it?