August 29, 2007

Leona Helmsley's will... a design for discord.

Read it and shudder:
Helmsley left her beloved white Maltese, named Trouble, a $12 million trust fund, according to her will, which was made public Tuesday in surrogate court.

She also left millions for her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who was named to care for Trouble in her absence, as well as two of four grandchildren from her late son Jay Panzirer -- so long as they visit their father's grave site once each calendar year.

Otherwise, she wrote, neither will get a penny of the $5 million she left for each.

Helmsley left nothing to two of Jay Panzirer's other children -- Craig and Meegan Panzirer -- for ''reasons that are known to them,'' she wrote.
It's not so bad that the dog got so much money. That's soft-headed flakiness that you could find a way to accept. But dividing four siblings into the two that win and the two that lose -- that, on top of the filthily rich and tauntingly named dog, is a design for discord. It's a flashy display of the love of trouble/Trouble.

Do Craig and Meegan really know the reasons? Or must they agonize for the rest of their lives about what the reasons are? If I were Craig/Meegan the very word "reasons" would torment me for the rest of my life. Reasons? Reasons?! Within a week, "reason" would equate with arbitrariness in my mind. Within the year, I would hate reason and turn to chaos for relief.

And what of the other two siblings? Will they give some of their take to Craig and Meegan? Or will they push them away with those supposedly well-known reasons? Reasons! You know the reasons. And all Craig and Meegan have is the grim insistence that the other two visit the father's grave or all is lost. Will Craig and Meegan visit the grave? Or will poor, entombed Dad only receive visits -- only once a year -- from the two children his mother saw fit to favor -- whose motive for the visit will never disaggregate from the desire to hang onto the money.

73 comments:

rhhardin said...

I visit my dogs' graves every day. Of course they're on the path to the bird feeder, which needs refilling every day. There's a little rise you can feel, even under snow.

She should have thought of that when burying Dad. Back yards are not used enough.

Pogo said...

Harmony and forgiveness are only for the little people.

Seven Machos said...

What an ugly person.

Matt Brown said...

Just watch. It won't be long before Trouble is hanging out at nightclubs in LA, NYC, and Miami. She'll be getting out of limos, letting everyone see she's not wearing panties.

Bob said...

The Queen of Mean, even from the grave. Maybe, like in the movie Creepshow, she'll climb out of the grave to wreak more evil upon her family.

Eva said...

There is so much freakish desire to control and manipulate people in those instructions. She must have gotten a chuckle out of picturing the reactions. They'll dance to her tune even after she's dead.

Pogo said...

R: "They'll dance to her tune even after she's dead."

Very true. Their only hope is a small one, but mighty: reject the money, and do not fight for it, but walk away forever. Like the ring in Tolkien's trilogy, the desire can consume them, even destroy them. If they can forgive her evil acts, and instead move on, they will have won.

I don't know if I could do it either.

rdkraus said...

Perhaps Craig and Meegan have already received substatial monies form Helmsley, or they may well have a negative relationship with her that easily explains why they are being left out.

Justin said...

-- so long as they visit their father's grave site once each calendar year.

Who will enforce this? Can it be enforced?

bill said...

so long as they visit their father's grave site once each calendar year.

Fine, show up 11:55pm, December 31 and leave at 12:05am, January 1. You're then good for 2 years minus 10 minutes.

Gedaliya said...

seven machos says:

What an ugly person.

You don't know this. The two grandchildren she cut from her will may well be money-grubbing creeps. She was, if reports are true, very generous to her son and to two of his four children.

The tabloid press made her into a caricature...emphasizing her worst features and never mentioning a single redeeming feature. Do you really believe the woman was a monster?

Helmsley had a hard fall. She spent time in jail. She paid a high price for her intemperate remarks. Has no one on this blog even an ounce of compassion for this woman?

Let's remember that the woman is dead. I was taught not to speak ill of the dead. It seems that bit of wisdom, at least in this blog, is in alarmingly scarce supply.

chuckR said...

Sorry, gedalya, but I just gotta know. What happens to the $12 million in trust after the dog goes paws up?

Meade said...

Bow freakin' wow.

Except for the forgiveness part, what Pogo said is exactly right. But leave the forgiveness to Jesus. It's his job.

Her children should not forgive Helmsley because, presumably, she never asked them to forgive her. To the contrary, she found a way to continue haunting, controlling, and abusing them from her grave.

Yes, let's do remember that the woman is dead. Ding hallelujah dong. May she freeze all alone in her very own five-star malignant narcissist's inner ring of hell. Without room service.

There is far too much cheap and easy forgiveness in our "Judeo-Christian" society. Forgiving one's unrepentant abuser is nothing short of an autopsychic suckerpunch.

Learn to accept what was done to you in order to break free of the bitterness. Then move on.

Cedarford said...

Well, I think it is safe to say that she cemented the reputation she had in life - cheap, abusive and mean - as her legacy.

Portions of her will appear to be uneforceable. How do you give 2 grandkids money and then have a provision to take away what they may spend in the next 5 years if they fail to show up at (her) grave 20 years from now?

And I don't know of any cemetery in the East that allows burial or internment of an animal alongside human remains - even a "special" dog she favored more in her Will than her brother or the 2 grandkids she did include.

Of course most of the money, over a billion, will go to the "Leona and Harry Helmsey Charitable Trust"....but who knows what the nasty bitch did to it. Harry Helmsey, by his staff's account a nice, decent guy who treated staff and employees with humanity and dignity - had certain priorities he wanted his fortune used for before Leona arrived....before he went senile..

Gedaliya - Let's remember that the woman is dead. I was taught not to speak ill of the dead. It seems that bit of wisdom, at least in this blog, is in alarmingly scarce supply.

I have noticed scant sympathy here, Gedaliya, for the likes of Saddam Hussein's death. The passing on of old mobsters and street thugs shot by other thugs.
Who amongst us has the wisdom you speak of to light a candle for Pol Pot or Charles Keating?

Nice to know you will stand out from the pack and show by your caring, the extent of your morality and wisdom..

Gedaliya said...

Who amongst us has the wisdom you speak of to light a candle for Pol Pot or Charles Keating?

Oh come on. Helmsley wasn't a Hussein or Pol Pot. She wasn't a mass murderer. She was the wife of a hotel magnate and real estate investor who was basically anonymous until her tax evasion trial, where a couple of prosecution witnesses portrayed her as a bitch.

What silly nonsense.

Pogo said...

Meade,
Forgiveness by her children would not be to excuse her, or erase anything, but to wipe her from memory so as not to have her meaness kudzu its way into their own hearts.

Sometimes forgiveness is a kind of power. To forgive and forget can be to bury permanently a harm done to oneself, a victory really, rather than nurse an old wound, keeping it fresh, thereby giving it control.

MadisonMan said...

What an interesting final sentence to the Times story that leads with a dog getting millions: One employee had quoted her as snarling, ''Only the little people pay taxes.''

A little dog-fixated are we, Mr. Times?

MadisonMan said...

And let me point out: it's her grandchildren that have been left money, or not, in the will. Her one son is dead, and it's his children that get (or don't get) money.

John Kindley said...

"There are but three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of. It can be left to the families of the decedents; or it can be bequeathed for public purposes; or, finally, it can be administered during their lives by its possessors. Under the first and second modes most of the wealth of the world that has reached the few has hitherto been applied. Let us in turn consider each of these modes. The first is the most injudicious. In monarchial countries, the estates and the greatest portion of the wealth are left to the first son, that the vanity of the parent may be gratified by the thought that his name and title are to descend to succeeding generations unimpaired. .... Why should men leave great fortunes to their children? If this is done from affection, is it not misguided affection? Observation teaches that, generally speaking, it is not well for the children that they should be so burdened. Neither is it well for the state. . . Wise men will soon conclude that, for the best interests of the members of their families and of the state, such bequests are an improper use of their means. . .
As to the second mode, that of leaving wealth at death for public uses, it may be said that this is only a means for the disposal of wealth, provided a man is content to wait until he is dead before it becomes of much good in the world.... The cases are not few in which the real object sought by the testator is not attained, nor are they few in which his real wishes are thwarted....
The growing disposition to tax more and more heavily large estates left at death is a cheering indication of the growth of a salutary change in public opinion.... Of all forms of taxation, this seems the wisest. Men who continue hoarding great sums all their lives, the proper use of which for public ends would work good to the community, should be made to feel that the community, in the form of the state, cannot thus be deprived of its proper share. By taxing estates heavily at death, the state marks its condemnation of the selfish millionaire's unworthy life." -- Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth

The taxation of inheritance is also the "wisest" form of taxation (along with the Georgist "single-tax" on the unimproved site value of land) because a dead guy or gal has no natural property rights. The "right" to bequeath and inherit is a fiction of the state that (other than modest provision for spouses and minor children) works far more harm than good.

Seven Machos said...

The probate laws are there for a reason, Ged, and it's because we assume that people are going to leave their inheritance equally to the next generations, because that's the right thing to do.

I will speak ill of the dead: the woman was a bad person. She richly deserves every bit of scorn and ridicule that she will get. Her name will forever be associated with cosmic awfulness, not too far removed from Pol Pot, and there is nothing she can do to redeem herself. Ever.

Were I the probate judge, I'd void this piece of crap if I possibly could.

Meade said...

Pogo,

All I'm saying is that the process of acceptance is a means to the same ends.

Sometimes forgiveness IS a kind of power, I don't disagree. But just as any power can be abused and misused, so can forgiveness. Too often, a cultural pressure to forgive and forget leads abused and damaged people to short-circuit a process that needs to include full reflection and accountability. Leona Helmsley failed to engage in that process while she was alive because, I'm guessing, she was filled with evil and hatred - intentionally causing her heirs to suffer even after her death. Her choice; her loss. Now she's dead and it's too late for her but her heirs still have possible remedies. Unfortunately, cheap easy forgiveness is not an effective remedy.

It's not unlike failing to charge a suspect with a crime because everyone has already gone through so much pain and suffering. I say, strap on the gonads, kids: bring the charges*, presume the innocence, find the facts, and pursue Justice. If guilty, the perpetrator can be forgiven AFTER he asks to be forgiven - an authentic apology based on all of the facts.

Whether or not the wrongdoer asks for forgiveness, the damaged parties - for the sake of their own souls - can go through a process of finding acceptance in order to, themselves, get free and move on.

That's why I suggest leaving forgiveness to the professional Himself.

*
http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070824/NEWS01/708240427/-1/back01

Galvanized said...

Hmm...wonder if the dog must make an annual visit to the grave, too.

As for the accusatory parting words to the snubbed grandchildren, they were meant to haunt. Were it me, it would sting for a day, but I would never look back. The best thing those two could do is consider the last words as a final attempt at control, oozing bile from a person whose god was money, and it was all she had to taunt with in the end. What a sad legacy.

Maxine Weiss said...

I keep telling Althouse, children have a right to inherit. Every time she selfishly spends money on herself, she undermines her children's inheritance.

Children don't ask to be born. If you don't want to make the sacrifice, don't have children.

Otherwise, any time you make an extraneous expenditure, the heirs suffer.

jimspice said...

The dog gets $12M and the poor chauffeur gets stuck with $100K, and only if he "...survive(d) (her) and at the time of (her) death (was) employed by (her) or any Helmsley entity." (NY Post)

He should have peed on her carpet and let her rub his belly.

Richard Dolan said...

That Leona Helmsley was not a nice lady seems clear enough from the public record. But her decision to leave the vast bulk of her billion-dollar estate to charity, while cutting out two of four grandchildren and making frivolous provisions for her dog, doesn't deserve all the hyperventilating. Her adult grandchildren (any grandchildren, for that matter) have no legal claim on a grandparent's estate. I don't see any basis for a moral claim either. There is nothing to suggest that any of her relatives are destitute; indeed, they all may be independently rich. But the state of their financial situation is irrelevant to the point: they have no right whatever to expect a dime from grandma, and no basis (other than jealousy) to complain if she decides to give something to others similarly situated. She didn't like them when she made her will, and said as much in it. Big deal. As for the two who were cut out, they now know, in the unlikely event that they didn't before, that grandma really didn't like them. Again, big deal. The idea that her will is a "design for discord" is a bit silly; the will just reflects the discord that was present for a long time, in a family that may well have been disfunctional in part because of all the money. As for the money left to the dog, any unspent principal in the trust under the will goes to the specified remainderman (presumably the charity). And her Foundation seems to be a typical, well-intentioned charity. According to the obit in the NY Daily News, the Foundation "has distributed tens of millions of dollars to hospitals and Hurricane Katrina victims."

Mean she may have been, but her decision to give most of her money to the Helmsley Foundation should be applauded. Instead, carping is the order of the day.
As for Leona Helmsley, she was a nasty piece of work, a convicted felon, and suffered from a tin ear (among other personal failings). But she was also a major public benefactor, and her will is Exhibit A proving that fact. It seems quite likely that millions of people will benefit for many, many years from her singular act of generosity in donating her money to charity. Some people get so caught up in the carping that they seem unable to recognize as much.

GeorgeH said...

"Her children should not forgive Helmsley because, presumably, she never asked them to forgive her."

For all we know they two kids were such miserable shits that they should have been asking her forgiveness. Thsi woman was never reticent. My guess is that the kids know very well why they are disinherited.

Luckyoldson said...

Who cares?

jane said...

I would agree with a couple of others here--

We don’t know the particulars, and they make all the difference. As unsympathetic a person as Leona was, her two grandchildren could have been loathsome. Or not, and merely victimized by their grandmother's controlling nature while she lived. But they aren't so much victimized as unlucky not to have been favored in her will, because there is no inherit right to a bequest.

Selfishly I add, I disagree about the need for (extensive) inheritance taxes. Being able to accrue and pass on is a powerful incentive for people to make money in their lifetime, and be productive to the economy and society while doing so. This earned income is already taxed before death.

Expecting to inherit, however, is corrupting and gives others leverage and opinion over your life:

“It was all the same old will- shaking game and came practically to this, that Ernest was no good, and that if he went on as he was going on now, he would probably have to go about the streets begging without any shoes or stockings soon after he had left school, or at any rate, college; and that he, Theobald, and Christina were almost too good for this world altogether.”

(Butler, The Way of All Flesh, chpt. 36)

Maxine Weiss said...

Legally, a will is a "legal" document, and you aren't allowed to exhibit malice. "For reasons known only to them" shows malice, and I predict this will is rendered null and void by a probate Judge.

Heirs always have a claim on the estate of the deceased.

That's why we call them "Heirs" .

And, setting up a foundation, makes it even more so. Private foundations can't exclude obvious beneficiaries for arbitrary, or malicious, reasons.

I know Estate Law, and "for reasons known to them" won't hold up in any Court of law.

She probably just should have said nothing. But the minute she invokes..."for reasons known only to them"...the two have an immediate claim!

Pogo said...

Meade,
I agree with your take on it.

John Kindley,
"The taxation of inheritance is also the "wisest" form of taxation"
I couldn't disagree more. It's the worst tax, defeating a reason to work hard and save, knowing the state will take it all anyway. Carnegie can advise the super-rich to give it all away, and I agree with that. But why make some corner grocer give the state his store when he dies?

Luckyoldson said...

It's my understanding the dog had a meth problem and will need the dough.

And the kids who get nothing evidently urinated on one of Leona's favorite carpets.

Go figure.

John Kindley said...

"I know Estate Law, and "for reasons known to them" won't hold up in any Court of law."

That may just be the dumbest thing you've ever wrote, Maxine. If true, I'd have to recall many of the wills I've drafted.

Luckyoldson said...

Pogo says: "But why make some corner grocer give the state his store when he dies?"

It would have to be one hell of a store, considering the monetary threshold before the taxes kick in.

Trumpit said...

She ordered that cash from sales of the Helmsley's residences and belongings, reported to be worth billions, be sold and that the money be given to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

- NY Times

If I'm reading this correctly, she just gave a billion dollars to charity. She sounds extremely generous to me, at least in death. You all got a beef with that? Please explain yourselves.

Luckyoldson said...

Trumpit said..."If I'm reading this correctly, she just gave a billion dollars to charity. She sounds extremely generous to me, at least in death. You all got a beef with that? Please explain yourselves."

Surely you jest.

Trumpit said...

My name isn't Surely. I jest you not, and I'm not your court jester.

Pogo said...

Re: "considering the monetary threshold before the taxes kick in"

John Kindley stated "The "right" to bequeath and inherit is a fiction of the state that (other than modest provision for spouses and minor children)"

That eliminates a store. Or a farm. Or any business, because, as he states, "a dead guy or gal has no natural property rights", which means a far more confiscatory process than now exists.

John Kindley said...

Maxine said: "I know Estate Law, and "for reasons known to them" won't hold up in any Court of law."

I said: "That may just be the dumbest thing you've ever wrote, Maxine. If true, I'd have to recall many of the wills I've drafted."

Actually, I would draft it to say "For reasons known to me," although the way it was drafted it Helmsley's will doesn't make it malicious or otherwise invalid. The danger in explicitly saying what the reason is is that it could conceivably provide a hook for the disinherited to argue that the testatrix was mistaken about the reason or that the reason no longer applies.

Luckyoldson said...

Trumpit:
I was referring to: "Please explain yourselves."

Trumpit said...

I reiterated what Richard Dolan said so well and thoroughly. I failed to read his comment before posting mine. Sorry about that.

jeff said...

"The taxation of inheritance is also the "wisest" form of taxation (along with the Georgist "single-tax" on the unimproved site value of land) because a dead guy or gal has no natural property rights. The "right" to bequeath and inherit is a fiction of the state that (other than modest provision for spouses and minor children) works far more harm than good."

Oh Bullshit. This says that property rights are a mere illusion and the state actually owns everything. Total nonsense. If you earn your money, then you and then your heirs can do anything they want with it, as long as it's legal, including leaving it to a dog.

Synova said...

I'm not terribly impressed when someone gives all their money away after they die. It's not a choice, really, since the money has to go somewhere no matter what.

Can't take it with you.

What virtue does it take to pick some worthy cause and have your lawyer write it all out?

And I agree with whoever pointed out that the purpose of inheritance is a motivation for productivity, saving and investment.

Cedarford said...

Trumpit - If I'm reading this correctly, she just gave a billion dollars to charity. She sounds extremely generous to me, at least in death. You all got a beef with that? Please explain yourselves.

Well, as you can't take it with you, Trumpit, how is leaving her husbands billions to her designees exactly "incredibly generous"?

What is your credible alternative that would show her "lack of generosity? That Leona, a Jew, gives the money to Al Qaeda? Or specifies it all be converted into diamonds buried with her body, with the dog, the two grandkids getting a relative pittance and anyone else be cut out?

******************
The estate tax is unfortunately necessary and just, IMHO. I don't like it, and for pure selfishness wish all of it would go to only people or interests I like - but I understand: (1) Wealth is built in societies that deliberately sacrifice to allow a few in their ranks to really prosper. (2)And that wealth concentrates in the hands of a few in societies that do not work to recycle the wealth gathered up by aristocracies, oligarchies, and "connected" people. If it is not recycled broadly, it stays and accumulates and compounds in the hands of other "economic aristocrats".

Every fortune that accumulates in America that couldn't in a place like The Congo, tends to be because the fatcat's vehicles ride on roads built by others, his life property is safeguarded criminals and foreign enemies that covet it and would take it, his customers and labor and capital and resources used to grow his fortune dependent on that societies laws and other's hard work.

If you argue that all that is irrelevant and Rockefeller, Gates, or Harry Halmsey could have done it as easily in a state of no law, no security, complete anarchy then their estates and untaxed accumulated gains should not be considered as part of anyone else's doing - or investment in constibuting to it.

And economic theory pretty well shows that an aristocracy, that not only pays less in taxes on each dollar they earn than workers do (Warren Buffets famous example that fatcats like he pay less on each dollar they make than a secretary, cop, engineer) - but have inheritance untaxed, start with a great competitive advantage of others with similar "hard work and born talent" - such that wealth invariably accumulates into a smaller and smaller oligarchy - even accounting for the Horatio Alers and fortune-squandering wastrels.

Trumpit said...

Cederford,

You are the slime of the Earth!

-Trumpit

Veeshir said...

Does the dog have to pay taxes?

I guess my question is more, "Who pays the taxes?"

After all, the dog has no SS number and the guardian of the dog isn't, legally I guess, the actual person getting the inheritance.

John Kindley said...

"This says that property rights are a mere illusion and the state actually owns everything."

Hardly. It says that the property rights of a dead person are a mere illusion. (If you were referring to my comment on taxing the unimproved site value of land, the philosophical basis for this is everyone's natural equal right to the earth and John Locke's proviso that one has "property" in appropriated land only to the extent that there is "enough, and as good left in common for others." The site value of land reflects the extent to which Locke's proviso has been violated, making community-collection of rent a just and necessary means of upholding the Lockean principle of private property.)

"That eliminates a store. Or a farm. Or any business, because, as he states, "a dead guy or gal has no natural property rights", which means a far more confiscatory process than now exists."

As things stand, Congress could constitutionally levy a 75% income tax. I think any income tax (particularly on that amount of income needed for the necessaries of life, defined broadly per Adam Smith) is theft, because I strongly believe in the property rights of living people. Even though Congress obviously does not respect our rights to our income, it still does not take quite 75%. Likewise, if Congress were to recognize that a person's property rights cease at death (just as it believes our rights to our income cease throughout our lives), that doesn't mean it would or should confiscate the entire estate and ignore entirely a decedent's wishes for the disposition of his/her estate. I just think the government to support its purported needs should tax first inheritances (where rights are fictional and policy-oriented), before it takes from the income (where rights are real) of a lower-middle class family money that otherwise might have been spent on things like health insurance.

rhhardin said...

There's another way to dispose of wealth, namely order that the estate be liquidated and the money burned.

This can be used for all sorts of rhetorical effects, but its actual effect is to return the money to the US Treasury, which is to say, to everybody, and it sort of disappears in the noise.

(The same thing happens if you keep your savings in a mattress ; it reverts to the government until such time as you bring it out and spend it. Burning is just a sort of permanent mattress. What actually happens is that the Fed notices that the money supply is a bit low, and it buys back a little debt to compensate, replacing your money with newly printed money. When you spend yours, it notices the money supply is a bit high, and sells debt to compensate, extinguishing those new dollars.)

Pogo said...

Re: "the property rights of a dead person are a mere illusion"

If so, then why can't I rob a grave?
Why can't I just walk into a funeral home and say your property rights are a mere illusion, and take the jewelrey and watch off the corpse?
Why can't I go to a Caregie library and take home some neat old bookshelves? He's dead, now for many years. I say By John Kindley, these are mine!


This issue has been looked at for hundreds of years. Disabling inheritnace in a wholesale fashion as you describe would have serious adverse and deletirious effects on productivity and investment.

Gedaliya said...

seven machos says...

I will speak ill of the dead: the woman was a bad person.

How do you know this? A few references would be helpful. Are you saying she had no redeeming qualities? She was evil?

She richly deserves every bit of scorn and ridicule that she will get.

She won't be getting any more scorn and ridicule. She's now in her grave. For some unfathomable reason, you find pleasure in dancing on it. Frankly, what you're doing is vulgar.

Her name will forever be associated with cosmic awfulness, not too far removed from Pol Pot, and there is nothing she can do to redeem herself. Ever.

This is so patently ridiculous that I suspect you're simply playing the joker. If not, you're certainly playing the fool. Perhaps you don't realize that comparing Helmsley to Pol Pot doesn't diminish Helmsley, it elevates Pol Pot.

Is that your intention?

MadisonMan said...

If so, then why can't I rob a grave?

You can disinter a body and have sex with it in WI. The sex is not a crime. You really do lose rights when you die.

Der Hahn said...

the property rights of a dead person are a mere illusion

I don't think 'dead people having property rights' is the basis for inheritance at all.

If a will is viewed as a contract with the beneficiaries to be performed upon the death in an individual, the property rights transfer instantly. The fact that the paperwork may take some time to catch up doesn't change that.

Pogo said...

Ad then comes Der Hahn, talkin' sense.
Who do you think you are, Hammurabi?

From Inwood said...

John K

“For reasons that are known to them/me.”

That is a sidebar here, but, FYI, I think that there was a collection of “famous attacks in Wills” sometime long, long ago; or maybe I’m thinking of some movies of the ‘30s & ‘40s where, before a large group of relatives, retainers, & other would-be heirs, the Will is read, by a Mr. Tulkinghorn type, said Will containing all kinds of jabs at ne’re-do-well relatives & slow retainers, to the consternation of some & the merriment of others & where all kinds of scores are settled. It was my experience that people who’d never been to a lawyer for a Will thought that this was cool. Maybe Snopes has an urban legend or two in this regard.

But, I suspect that even one of those “Wills For Idiots” guides by now have a section warning people not to put this stuff in for the reasons you’ve explained plus the fact that such sentiments are usually defamatory & may lead to unexpected litigation.

And of course, the quoted phrase above is added as evidence that the testator/testatrix did not accidentally overlook the party left out.

Funny that someone would think that Leona did not have the best lawyers. (“Bad lawyers are are only for little people” , as she might say.”)

Which is not to say that Leona's every wish about the dog will be fulfilled by those in charge of the trust in the way she herself might've done had she survived.

Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!

save_the_rustbelt said...

I wonder who gets the money when the dog dies?

Maybe she was too mean to think of a secondary beneficiary?!?!

Maxine Weiss said...

Nobody gets disinherited when you've got billion dollar foundations. Maybe she can play games with the trusts. When you set up a "Charitable" (Hahahah) Foundation there are usually several groups of heirs that are entitled to interest income etc...

We all know that these "Foundations" are nothing more than glorified tax shelters for the wealthy. Has the Helmsley Foundation ever made a single disbursement?

The two disinherited could cause a major uproar if they claim those Foundations are nothing but fraud. Someone better settle with them, otherwise the whole thing will be tied up in Court for years, they'll raid the trusts, and dismantle the "Foundations".

I've seen it happen many times.

John Kindley said...

"If a will is viewed as a contract with the beneficiaries to be performed upon the death in an individual, the property rights transfer instantly."

That's not what a will is and that's not what happens. The property rights haven't been transferred to the beneficiaries before the testator's death, so they have no power or authority to act on behalf of the decedent with regard to the property. No one has the right to do anything with the decedent's former property until the state enters the picture and (after certifying who in fact are the beneficiaries by accepting the will as legitimate) appoints a personal representative / executor (who may or may not be a beneficiary) to act in the decedent's stead (via the state-created legal fiction I mentioned earlier), who then effects the transfer of property. (In small estates, by statute, transfers can be effected by affidavit without court administration.)

A revocable living trust, on the other hand, to which the decedent transfers title to property prior to death, may function similarly to what you describe. Probate is not necessary because title is not in the decedent's name. However, since the trust is revocable and the decedent could have done anything he wanted with the trust assets up to his death, the state levies inheritance and estate taxes on the trust assets just the same.

AllenS said...

My father died in 1985. He had a will. He gave half of his estate (money) to two friends of his, about $12,000. He gave his other son, and his daughter (my brother and sister) each, $1. I got the balance, again about $12,000.

Being the good man that I am, I wrote two checks, giving my brother and sister, one third of what I was given.

I don't think that this will happen to this family.

Ann Althouse said...

Allen, I'm glad to hear that. I'm sure it was easy to see that it was strongly in your interest to spend the money to undo the slight.

AllenS said...

Thank you, Ann.

MadisonMan said...

I'm almost 50 and I've never inherited a dime. And that's good news as it means everyone who could give me money is still alive. Within 5 years or so I'll likely inherit something, and I'm curious to see how the procedure works.

Allen, I'm pretty sure my inheritances will not be like yours, and for that I'm grateful. You did well to give your siblings the money.

Synova said...

Property rights are an illusion the same way that all government is consensus fiction.

Past the point of "I own what I can hold" the concept of property as it's supported by other people who agree not to take it even if they can, is only real because a majority agree to pretend that it is real.

Synova said...

My family has never had much but it doesn't take much to cause serious discord and long term animosity.

My parents talk about dividing their home/lake property between four children and, as far as I know, each of us has said that we'd rather it was not divided. And having one person have to pay the other three isn't a solution either because none of us could possibly afford that. I'd rather one of my siblings (the one who actually could live in the house on the lake) to get it all so that "we" still have it and can visit and vacation there.

It's probably best to work this all out before it becomes an issue so that everyone has the same expectations.

John Kindley said...

"I'd rather one of my siblings (the one who actually could live in the house on the lake) to get it all so that "we" still have it and can visit and vacation there."

If you all get along well enough to be confident that you could visit and vacation there whenever you want even though one of the siblings owns the property outright, seems like it could be given to all four of you as tenants in common. If one of you lives there all the time some kind of rent paid to the others (maybe at a family discount, especially since you'll occasionally be vacationing there) might be worked out.

That's just one option, and I have no way of knowing if it would be suitable. Far be it from me to come across as offering legal advice. But just giving it all to one sibling seems fraught with problems. What if twenty years down the road the property value goes sky high and/or the sibling decides to move and sells the property? And in any event, when that sibling dies, it's all going to his kids, not his kids' cousins.

Okay, enough random thoughts from me. Sounds like your parents really should see an attorney.

rcocean said...

This is a perfect example of why we need a "Death tax" and also a high tax rate on people with high incomes.

Maxine Weiss said...

Synova---you'd better start getting your ducks in line. That lake property is going to be split four-ways and then sold off.

My advice when the time comes, is to immedately get a U-Haul and collect the furnishings/furniture, maybe even in the middle of the night--- before your siblings do.

You've got to move quick if you are going to outrun/outsmart 4 siblings!

Maxine Weiss said...

"For reasons known only to them"

John Kindley: you don't consider that malicious?

But, what if they don't know of any "reasons"? A statement like that sets up an immediate dispute.

What would have been better would be to have just said nothing, rather than toss in an inflammatory statement which can easily be challenged.

From Inwood said...

rcocean you said...

"This is a perfect example of why we need a 'Death tax' and also a high tax rate on people with high incomes."

Presumably your “this” refers to the example of the four siblings & the lake-front property owned by their parents.

If I understand you correctly, your solution would be to tax at a “high tax rate” the income of these “high income” parents, “high income” apparently being defined to mean that earned by anyone who can own lake-front property. The result would be that these parents could probably not afford to hold such property. And, if they did somehow manage to hold it, then you’d tax the transfer of the property upon death so that the heirs would have to sell it to pay such taxes.

No one gets to live on the lake!

And we thought that Leona was mean.

Adjoran said...

Whether she was a saint or an intolerable b*tch is entirely irrelevant.

It was HER money. She is perfectly entitled to dispose of it as she sees fit - the nonsensical musings of others above notwithstanding.

If the two disinherited grandkids had attitudes anything like many exhibited here, there is little wonder they were cut off.

Ann Althouse said...

Adjoran, on that theory, we could never criticize anyone who is doing something they are free to do. Imagine a world like that. It would be crazy!

rcocean said...

This is a perfect example of why we need a 'Death tax' and also a high tax rate on people with high incomes."

Presumably your “this” refers to the example of the four siblings & the lake-front property owned by their parents.


Sorry, Inwood, I should have made my post more plain, I was referring to Mrs. Helmsley.

jen10mi said...

''For reasons that are known to them.''

Aren't these the same words heard at the end of "Mommie Dearest," when Joan Crawford disinherits her children? I wonder if Leona was deliberately invoking Crawford.

Everybody who says she can do what she wants with her money, or that her dog was the only creature who loved her, or that her Panzirer grandchildren MAY be money-grubbing creeps--you're right. People can do what they want with their own money. But Leona Helmsley went after these grandkids' mom (her son's widow) right after their dad died, suing her for money and trying to evict her from her home. This is not a nice woman we're talking about.

Christobelle said...

I agree that the children/ grandchildren may not have given her the time of day during her life! It happens all of the time, but you can be dam sure they will be waiting in the wings upon death for what they think is rightfully theirs!

Christobelle said...

I think she had every right to do what she wanted with her money. Her children/grandchildren may not have given her the time of day when she was alive unless they were getting something out of it, and it happens all of the time, even in families without a lot of wealth. They were not owed anything.