Trial to Examine Reclusive Copper Heiress' Will
By Jennifer Peltz
NEW YORK -- She had wealth few could boast and used it to finance a life few would choose -- an heiress to the fortune of the founder of Las Vegas spending 20 years voluntarily in New York hospital rooms.
Now Huguette Clark's reclusive existence is about to be scrutinized in a Manhattan courtroom, where jury selection is due to start Tuesday in a civil trial over her will. With an estimated $300 million at stake, the case broaches questions about aging, caregiving and the line between encouraging gratitude and extracting gifts.
Clark's distant relatives say hospital executives, a nurse, a lawyer, an accountant and others in her small circle induced a dependent, fragile woman to give them millions of dollars during her lifetime and in her will. The beneficiaries say she was a sharp-minded, strong-willed, munificent person whose decisions were as deliberate as they were unusual.Signed when the childless Clark was 98, the disputed April 2005 will largely left her estate to arts charities, her nurse and a goddaughter. It provided nothing for her relatives, who were the main beneficiaries of a will she'd signed just six weeks earlier. "Fundamentally, however, this tragic story presents much more than just a question of whether a particular will is valid or not," the relatives' lawyer, John R. Morken, said in a court filing. The larger issue, he wrote, is whether there's an ethical limit to what caregivers and advisers can ask for or accept -- "and if there is, how can professionals and institutions be held accountable?" The beneficiaries say it's simply a case of bald-faced greed. And not on their part. Remote relations who barely knew Clark "claim she should have left her fortune to them, and not those who cared for her in the last years of her life," lawyer Brian Corrigan, who represents Clark's own attorney, said Friday. Clark's father, U.S. Sen. William A. Clark, made a Gilded Age fortune from Montana copper mines, a Utah-to-California railroad and sales of land around a whistle stop dubbed Las Vegas. Huguette Clark owned the biggest apartment on New York's Fifth Avenue, an oceanfront mansion in Santa Barbara, Calif., and a 52-acre estate in New Canaan, Conn.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV