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Julie Garber

Celebrity Estate Update - Accounting Filed for Heiress Huguette Clark's Estate Reveals Hundreds of Millions At Stake in Will Contest

By October 15, 2012

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Last week an interim accounting was filed for the estate of reclusive copper heiress Huguette Clark, who died on May 24, 2011, at the age of 104. The accounting revealed that at the time of her death, Ms. Clark owned multiple mansions and New York City apartments, stocks, bonds, cash, beneficial interests in trusts, and a vast array of personal property. Among the assets listed:

  • Bellosguardo, a Santa Barbara, California beachfront mansion, estimated to be worth only $84.5 million due to $502,000 in property tax liens
  • Three New York City cooperative apartments located at 907 Fifth Avenue, which were listed for sale back in March, with a total estimated value of $53 million: $24 million for 12-W and $19 million for 8-W, both of which have been sold, and $10 million for 8-E, which is still on the market
  • Le Beau Chateau, a New Canaan, Connecticut country mansion located at 104 Dans Highway, estimated to be worth $14.3 million, which is currently listed for sale for $15.9 million by Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild
  • Stocks, bonds, cash and beneficial interests in trusts estimated to be worth $79.3 million, which includes a mere $4,039 in unclaimed funds that were received from the state of New York
  • Personal property including jewelry, artwork, furniture and a doll collection, with a total estimated value of $75.4 million

With all of this expensive "stuff," one would think that Ms. Clark was a jet-setting, hobnobbing heiress. To the contrary, Ms. Clark was married briefly in the late 1920s but quickly divorced and never remarried, and, coincidentally, did not have any children. In fact, she lived as a recluse the majority of her long life (the last known photo of her was taken in 1930), and she spent her last 20 years in hospitals even when she was not sick and died at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. It has been reported that she never stepped foot into Le Beau Chateau, and when a bank vault was opened after her death, millions of dollars worth of jewelry was found, including a flawless 19.86 carat Cartier diamond ring, all in the original boxes and apparently stored there since the 1940s. The jewelry has since been sold at auction by Christie's for $18.3 million, well above the pre-auction estimate of between $8.5 million to $12 million. Ms. Clark also collected very expensive dolls and was reported to have spent $2.5 million alone at Au Nain Bleu, a well-known and historic doll shop in Paris.

All of this begs the question, who will inherit the copper heiress's $300 million+ estate? This is not an easy question to answer because of a multitude of factors, including millions of dollars that will be owed in state and federal estate and gift taxes, and allegations that her long time accountant, Irving Kamsler, and attorney, Wallace Bock, along with doctors, nurses and other caregivers, took advantage of the heiress, prompting the public administrator overseeing the estate to demand that these individuals return $44 million in gifts back to the estate. Then there is the issue of two Last Will and Testaments signed by Ms. Clark in 2005 a mere six weeks apart. The first leaves a specific bequest to a nurse and the balance to Ms. Clark's intestate heirs (which included 13 half-grandnieces and half-grandnephews and 8 half-great-grandnieces and half-great-grandnephews at the time of her death), the second cuts out family members entirely and leaves the estate to various caregivers, nurses and doctors, a goddaughter, the accountant, the attorney, and several charitable organizations. You can read a summary of what each will says by following these links:

The judge presiding over the estate, Surrogate Kristin Booth Glen, was hoping to begin the jury trial for the will contest before the end of this year since her term ends on December 31; however, the judge is no longer optimistic that this will be possible, so look for a jury trial to begin in early or mid 2013.

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