Since dying at the age of 104 in May, 2011, heiress Huguette Clark’s estate has drawn widespread interest as it has gone through numerous twists and turns. With an estimated $400 million inheritance left over from her industrialist father’s success during the Gilded Age, Ms. Clark was the sole heir to one of America’s greatest fortunes. Her few remaining family members are now alleging that those around the reclusive heiress during the end of her life committed fraud in their handling of her affairs.
At issue is the more than $50 million that Ms. Clark left to her personal nurse during her life and through her final last will and testament. The nurse worked for Ms. Clark for about 20 years and, as that time progressed, received almost $26 million in gifts from the heiress including five houses and a $200,000 luxury Bentley automobile.
The family members are contesting the will on the basis that Ms. Clark was not able to understand the nature and extent of her property at the time she made it. They argue that a previous will should apply to her estate, one that leaves the family an inheritance. The will which they are contesting completely cuts the family out.
However, the two wills were created within six weeks of each other. If the court determines that one is invalid because of Ms. Clark’s inability, it may very well determine that the previous will is also invalid. In this situation, the family members would stand to inherit everything because that is what the New York intestacy laws require.