Leona Helmsley may have been known as the "Queen of Mean" but today’s Wall Street Journal reminds us that she left about five billion dollars to her foundation , The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust which had a mission statement directing that a large portion of these funds be provided to the care and welfare of dogs. This lead to an outcry that  charities providing for the needs of humans were being neglected in favor of our four-legged friends. The trustees of the estate together with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo petitioned the New York County Surrogate for a ruling as to whether or not the mission statement could be binding upon the trustees’ decisions to apply the funds of the trust.  Recently, Surrogate Troy Brewer ruled that the trustees were free to use their own discretion in making grants from the funds they held in trust. It has now been revealed that approximately 136 million dollars have been awarded in the first wave of grants — 1 million of which was applied to charities for the benefit of animals.

As the Journal advises us, a trust creator who wants to make sure his or her wishes are followed by the trustees should either give very specific directions or simply dispose of the funds while still alive. Of course, the question remains as to whether the same result would have been reached with a much smaller trust fund. While five billion dollars is a staggering amount to contemplate in a charitable trust focused upon canine beneficiaries, I would think it far more likely that a smaller sum ( a few million , for instance) might have a better chance of being disposed of totally in line with the wishes of the trust creator.