Mystery permanently surrounded the heiress Huguette Clark–a reclusive woman whose $300 million estate is often referred to as the last collection of wealth drawn from the American “Gilded Age.” Her father was a copper magnante many decades ago and was also a former senator from Montana. He is well known as the founder of the city of Las Vegas. Huguette inherited the fortune upon his (and her mother’s) passing. However, she never sought business or public notoriety like her father. Instead, she was intimately private. In fact, she reportedly spent the last twenty years of her life inside a New York City hospital–even when she was healthy enough to live on her own.
Huguette eventually passed away in May of last year. As often happens in cases of great wealth–particularly when there is much mystery surrounding one’s life–various fights ensued over control of the fortune.
A trial in the case is set to begin soon, according to a recent NBC report on the case.
A recent accounting this week in the Surrogate’s Court found that the estate is valued at roughly $306.5 million when all of the real estate, cash, bonds, stocks, and personal property are taken into account. The largest piece of that estate is a summer home in California on 23.5 acres that is valued at nearly $85 million. In addition, she owned three New York City apartments collectively worth about $53 million. However, the estate may grow if the executor is successful in getting back more than $44 million in gifts that were allegedly given to Clark’s nurses, doctors, and the hospital where she lived in the last years of her life.
Huguette wrote two wills at age 98, several years before her passing. The first will left a few million dollars to her private nurse with the remaining going to the relatives from her father’s first marriage. Six weeks later, however, the second will was signed. This will claims that no money was left to family, instead most the inheritance was to be used for a museum or art foundation at her California estate. The second will also left funds to Huguette’s attorney, nurse, doctor, accountant, and others. An investigation was launched regarding the handling of Clark’s affairs and potential elder abuse in 2010 over suspicions of illegal conduct by her advisors, but no criminal charges were ever filed.
All the parties in the case are now prepping for trial which is slated to take place before the end of the year. However, if delays arise, which they often do in these cases, the matter might not be settled until next year.
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