Helmsley Charitable Trust Shows Benefits of Trust Formation and Estate Planning in New York

The 40-acre Greenwich estate of Leona Helmsley sold for $35 million recently. The property was marked down from an original asking price of $125 million but was still among the most expensive homes ever sold in the affluent New York suburb, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The home was sold by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. She left the majority of her real estate and other holdings to the trust, thought to be worth billions of dollars. She also famously left $12 million to her dog, Trouble. A court later reduced the Maltese’s inheritance to $2 million.

A New York City probate lawyer can assist in the establishment of a trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan. Estates that are dispersed by trust may avoid going through the probate court process, where your assets and their distribution will become public record.

From a legal standpoint, a trust is considered to be a separate legal entity, like a person, and can pay taxes, enter into contracts and be sued. We recently spoke of the benefits of a special needs trust, which can hold assets for a child with special needs without impacting his or her ability to collect government assistance. A life insurance trust may also be used to deal with the tax consequences of an estate settlement.

In this case, the trust also holds a substantial ownership interest in the Empire State Building. It has been selling off property lately, including the Carlton Hotel in Manhattan, which it sold earlier this year.

The Helmsley estate, known as Dunnellen Hall, is one of the town’s older homes and is likely in need of extensive renovations. The 28-room mansion has an 86-foot-long gallery, a wine cellar and a tasting room. The Helmsleys bought the place for $11 million in 1983 and put about $8 million into it, including a $1 million dance floor.

New York City Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas handles all types of probate cases, including Wills, estate planning, estate settlement, advanced directives and guardianship matters. Please call me at (212) 355-2575 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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