Huguette Clark estate controversy lingers on

Published 20 Jan 2014

The world has been fascinated by the twists and turns in the story of Huguette Clark’s inheritance dispute, and now a new layer has been added to the story.

In January, the night nurse who attended to the copper industry heiress filed a contesting wills claim, asserting she was not included in the many talks over how the estate would be divided. The nurse, Geraldine Coffey, claims these “secret” deals left her without a single dollar of the $335 million estate.

Ms Coffey argues that Ms Clark gave her daytime nurse US$31 million during her lifetime, while she only received $1 million. This was despite the heiress’ alleged verbal promise to always provide for Ms Coffey even after her death.

However, there is no written declaration of this promise in the will, which is causing several problems in the contesting wills case.

On the other side, Ms Clark’s estate lawyers are arguing that during her lifetime, Ms Coffey caused the heiress much “anxiety and distress” by constantly asking for the $7.5 million New York apartment that was a part of the estate.

The case takes another turn

Now, Ms Coffey has found herself as the defendant in a separate lawsuit. Ms Clark’s lawyers claim that Ms Coffey actually owes the estate money because of the gifts Ms Clark left her during her lifetime. This includes the $385,000 she gave her for real estate purchases and $85,000 for school fees.

Ms Coffey has refused to sign the deal and is now alleging that the lawyers working for Ms Clark’s estate are working together to keep her from ever receiving any part of the fortune.

One of the attorneys for Ms Clark’s relatives stated that this would have been expected from the nurse, who may not have actually done too much to care for Ms Clark during her lifetime.

“While purportedly caring for Mrs Clark, Geraldine repeatedly pressured her patient to make ‘gifts’ to and for the benefit of her and her family,” the lawyer wrote in the lawsuit against Ms Coffey.

All persons involved in the case returned to court in mid-January, however, there has not yet been a resolution in the matter.

Though an extreme case, the Huguette Clark case provides a good example of how messy inheritance disputes can get, and why it’s necessary to consult with experienced contesting wills lawyers.

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