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Tentative Deal in Dispute Over Copper Heiress' Will

By Jennifer Peltz

NEW YORK -- A tentative deal has been reached in a New York court fight over the will of a reclusive Montana copper mining heiress that would give more than $30 million of her $300 million estate to her distant relatives, a person familiar with the case said Saturday.

The breakthrough in the fight over Huguette Clark's estate comes after jury selection started in a trial pitting nearly two dozen of her half-siblings' descendants against a goddaughter, a hospital where she spent the last 20 years of her life, a nurse, doctors, a lawyer and others.

A will drawn up in April 2005 cut out her distant relatives. Another will, six weeks earlier, left them most of her money.

The tentative settlement will give the relatives about $34.5 million after taxes under the deal, while her nurse would have to turn over $5 million and a doll collection valued at about $1.6 million, the person told The Associated Press. Her lawyer would get nothing.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity to discuss the settlement because it hasn't yet been made public. News of the tentative settlement was first reported by The New York Times and WNBC.

Several of the many lawyers involved with the case declined to comment or didn't immediately return calls.

Clark owned lavish properties from New York's Fifth Avenue to the California coast but opted to spend her final two decades ensconced in a Manhattan hospital. The childless Clark died in 2011, at age 104.

Her father, U.S. Sen. William A. Clark, was one of the richest Americans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He served as a senator from Montana, where he initially made his fortune from copper mines. His business empire later grew to include building a Western rail line and establishing a Nevada railroad town called Las Vegas. The surrounding Clark County is named for him.

Jury selection started Thursday in the trial over the validity of the April 2005 will.

"The persons and institution named herein as beneficiaries of my estate are the true objects of my bounty," that will said, noting that she'd had only "minimal contacts" with her relatives over the years.

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