Heiress’ Estate Settlement Reached

We file this under “Estate Planning” and “Lifestyle.”  It’s from the Hook Law Center which provides us with an interesting peek into the issues that wealth can create.

Perhaps you have been reading about the estate of Huguette Clark, a wealthy, eccentric who died in New York City in May 2011. A settlement has now been reached as of September 24, 2013. It was the story of a wealthy heiress (copper industry) who had drawn up 2 conflicting wills within 6 months of each other in 2005. When $300 million is involved, it was no surprise that this would be resolved in court. Not only individuals, but philanthropic institutions like the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC were also parties to the legal challenge. There were some winners and some losers in the outcome. Sixteen law firms were involved in the settlement.

What happened was this. Huguette Clark was the only surviving child of a 2nd marriage of William Clark, copper financier and former US Senator. He died in 1925, but Huguette did not die until 2011 at the age of 104. Huguette had a brief marriage to the son of one of her father’s employees which ended in 1930. She had no offspring. Huguette gradually became more and more reclusive as the years passed, especially after her mother’s death in 1960. She occupied her time collecting dolls, and she spent the last 20 years of her life living at Beth Israel Hospital in New York, paying nearly $400,000 a year for care, despite being relatively healthy and owning residences in New York City and Santa Barbara, CA. The second will benefited one of the beneficiaries of the first will and a longtime nurse, Hadassah Peri, while somewhat distant relatives and children from her father’s first marriage were cut out.

After more than two years of legal battles, the resolution is as follows. 20 relatives connected to William Clark’s first marriage will receive a total of $34.5 million to be divided among them. Nurse Peri has to pay back $5 million of the $31 million she received over a 20-year period, in exchange for a pledge of no further legal proceedings on her part. A goddaughter and some other employees will receive more than $4 million. The Bellosguardo Foundation, incorporated in New York, will receive her seaside estate in Santa Barbara, CA valued at $85 million, her doll collection valued at more than $1 million, and $5 million in cash. Another Bellosguardo Foundation, incorporated in CA in 2011, will receive nothing. The Corcoran Gallery of Art will receive half of the value in excess of $25 million that the sale of Monet’s “Water Lillies” yields. They also may receive 25% of any money recovered from other individuals who received monetary gifts from Huguette late in her life, to which they may not have been entitled. The Corcoran has received many millions over the years from the Clark family, including gifts from her father and Huguette herself. The timing couldn’t be better for the Corcoran. It has had recent financial trouble, and has even considered relocating from its prestigious DC location to meet its financial obligations.

Hugette could have benefitted from our book “Before I Go.” It’s too late for her, but not too late for you.

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