Massive Huguette Clark estate leads to serious contesting wills claims

Published 04 Oct 2013

When Huguette Clark passed away in 2011 at the age of 104, she left behind a fortune of $300 million that soon became the focus of a heated contesting wills claim.

Instead of leaving the bulk of it to her family, Ms Clark left her millions to those she claimed were closest to her – her nurse, attorney, employees and goddaughter.

This didn’t sit well with her blood relatives, who claimed that as family, they were entitled to their share of the estate. Even though the heiress – whose father made his millions in the copper industry and was once among the top businessmen in America – never married or had children, there were scores of grandnephews, grandnieces and even more distant relatives who laid claim to the estate.

Considering Ms Clark explicitly stated that her family hadn’t been a major part of her life in nearly half a century, the case went on for some time until it was resolved last month. She did, however, draft a previous will six weeks before her last will and testament that indeed gave her family a share of the fortune. This gave the relatives plenty of ground to stand on during the case.

The verdict is in, inheritance disputes are over

In the end, the relatives were awarded a sum of $34.5 million to be split up between all of them. This includes the great-grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren of Ms Clark’s father’s first marriage.

The court found that, despite the will making it “emphatically” clear that her relatives should not receive a cent, Ms Clark’s nurse would not receive the amount outlined in the will. Nurse Hadassah Peri served Ms Clark for more than 20 years.

Initially, Ms Peri was to receive $30 million upon Ms Clark’s death, which came after $31 million in gifts were given to her while she was still alive. However, the final ruling found she would receive nothing from the will, and that she needed to return $5 million worth of the gifts she had received.

The biggest sum, however, was left to art institutions. A new arts foundation was established with the $85 million she left behind, which Ms Clark was adamant about while she was alive and in her will.

Not all contesting wills cases involve centuries of history and millions of dollars. Contesting wills lawyers can work with anyone to receive any amount deemed appropriate.

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