Recently deceased Montana copper heiress Huguette Clark, whose curious life and obsession with dolls made headlines, has a will that has been in dispute in a New York courtroom. It’s been reported by an anonymous party close to the case that a tentative deal would distribute more than $30 million of her $300 million estate to her distant relatives.
The court battle had pit nearly two dozen of Clark’s half-siblings’ descendants against a goddaughter, the hospital where she’d spent her last 20 years, doctors, a nurse, her lawyer, her accountant and others. An April 2005 version of Clark’s will cut out the descendants altogether, but a rehash from 6 weeks later left them almost everything. The latest tentative agreement would leave the relatives roughly $34.5 million after taxes. Clark’s chief nurse, Hadassah Peri, would have to hand over $5 million, along with a $1.5 million doll collection, and Clark’s lawyer Wallace Bock would get nothing.
Jury selection concerning the validity of the April, 2005 will began Thursday. In that version, Clark stated, “the persons and institution named herein as beneficiaries of my estate are the true objects of my bounty,” and noted that she’d had only “minimal contacts” with her true relatives over the years. Clark owned properties from Fifth Avenue in NYC to coastal California, but chose to live in the Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan at $400,000 a year in the twilight of her life, before passing away at 104 in 2011. Clark was first admitted to the hospital in 1991, emaciated and stricken with advanced skin cancer.
Some of Clark’s fortune would also go to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, at $10 million, and Clark’s mansion in California would become a foundation.
Over the years, Clark had dispensed multiple Manhattan apartments, a $1.2 Stradivarius violin, hundreds of thousands of dollars in Christmas presents, a painting by Manet, etc. to her hospital caretakers – and her lawyer and accountant stood to receive sizable fees as executors of the challenged will, on top of the hundreds or thousands of dollars they’d already received in gifts.
Clark’s relatives said the hospital, the doctors and nurses, and the lawyer and accountant had swindled the heiress. Their retort was that Clark was just a generous lady. New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office ended up getting involved in the dispute to protect charities’ interests. More money, more problems.
Image courtesy of Jungle Red Writers.