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New York executors of billionaire’s estate vie for money

Leona Helmsley was once called, "the Queen of Mean" before she died in August 2007. The hotel magnate was well known for her outspoken opinions and she once even spent a year and a half in prison for tax evasion. Nevertheless, when Helmsley died she left behind a sprawling estate valued at around $5.4 billion. Now, four men who had once been the executors of that estate are stepping forward and seeking a portion of that estate as compensation for their roles in helping to administer Helmsley's estate.

According to court documents filed with the Manhattan Surrogate's Court, the four executors mention their stewardship of Helmsley's enormous estate through the recent economic downturn as one of the reasons they should share in a $100 million fee split among the four of them. According the quartet, they were instrumental in fending off claims from two of Helmsley's grandchildren whom she had disinherited. They also say that they successfully managed the 80 properties included in Helmsley's estate. The Empire State Building is one of the most notable of those holdings. According to the men, Helmsley also held positions in five corporations and owned 27 other business outright; all of which they claim to have managed.

Helmsley also famously bequeathed a staggering $12 million to her dog Trouble before she died. The four executors & fiduciaries say that they acted as responsible stewards of Helmsley's estate when they convinced a probate judge to trim that amount down to a more reasonable $2 million.

Presumably, $3.6 million would be deducted from the $100 million the four are now seeking. The four men were awarded the smaller amount as part of an advance to them back in 2009.

People forming an estate should have a clear idea about the compensation for those entrusted to act as its executors. Consulting first with legal advocates experienced in complex estate litigation can result in forming a good roadmap to ensure financial responsibilities are clearly defined. Proper planning done now can head off future probate litigation, challenges to the estate by other supposed heirs and other potential problems.

Source: New York Daily News, "Executors of Leona Helmsley’s $5.4 billion estate seek meager $100 million as fee" Barbara Ross, Larry McShane, Jun. 12, 2014

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