Jury selection starts this week in a strange and epic fight over the fortune of
Huguette Clark, a reclusive copper heiresswho spent the last two decades of her life in a
$400,000-a-year hospital room, where she died in 2011 at the age of 104.
20 of Clark’s distant relatives — one of whom lived just across Central Park from her for years but never paid her a visit — claim her lawyer and others manipulated her into changing her will, The New York Times reported.
Clark, a “real-life Miss Havisham,” executed two wills just six weeks apart, according to The Times. The first would have left her fortune to her family, many of whom had little if any contact with her. (One of her would-be heirs never actually met his aunt.) The second will cut them out in dramatic fashion, declaring:
I intentionally make no provision in this my Last Will Testament for any members of my family, whether on my maternal or paternal side, having had minimal contacts with them over the years. The persons and institutions named herein as beneficiaries of my estate are the true objects of my bounty.
Her fortune has been estimated to be worth between $US300 million and $US500 million. The second will stipulated that most of her estate would be used to create an arts foundation. But the second will also left money to her doctor, her longtime nurse, and Beth Israel Medical Center, where she lived the last part of her life.
Clark also left her lawyer $US500,000 and her accountant another $US500,000. That accountant, Irving H. Kamsler, pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending porn to undercover cops he thought were 13- and 15-year-olds, according to NBC.
The Manhattan DA’s office is still investigating potentially criminal wrongdoing with regard to the last-minute will change, NBC reports. In the meantime, jury selection in the civil case brought by her relatives will proceed on Tuesday unless a last-minute settlement can be reached.
The family members admitted in a motion filed in New York Surrogate’s Court that they had little contact with Clark, a childless woman whose father, William A. Clark, was one of history’s richest Americans. But she had little contact with anybody after her mother died in 1963, they said.
“But for housekeepers and staff Huguette was left alone, living amidst her collection of French dolls and dollhouses, dining austerely, and watching television,” the motion said. But it also claimed she was “true to her family” and “remained close to them, but from a distance.”
Clark apparently became a bit more social after moving into Beth Israel in 1991. She “loved her doctors,” a lawyer for her longtime nurse told The New York Times. One of those doctors, Henry Singman, got $US100,000 in Clark’s second will. He told a court he’s renouncing his gift, though, so he can freely testify for the second will, NBC reports.
Beth Israel still gets $US1 million under her second will.
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