Heirs of wealthy, reclusive N.Y. heiress settle battle over will

Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:42pm EDT
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By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Battling relatives and other beneficiaries on Tuesday resolved a dispute over the multimillion-dollar estate of Huguette Clark, one of America's wealthiest heiresses who died in New York City in 2011 at age 104.

Eleven lawyers for the squabbling parties, including distant relatives, her goddaughter, her nurse and other people named in the will, lined up before Judge Nora Anderson on Tuesday morning at Manhattan's Surrogate's Court to say they had settled after a final volley of emails at 2 a.m.

The deal they agreed to, which Anderson endorsed as "a fair result," combines elements from two contradictory wills executed six weeks apart in 2005.

The first left the bulk of her wealth to her relatives and her nurse; the second cut out her relatives, and instead directed that an arts foundation be created. That second will also rewarded her nurse, doctor, lawyer, accountant and others who were close to her in her last years.

Under Tuesday's settlement, Clark's goddaughter, Wanda Styka, will get $3.5 million. Another $34.5 million will be shared among nearly two dozen grandnieces and grandnephews or their children, many of whom said they had never met the reclusive heiress. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. would get a gift of at least $10 million, and potentially more if the sale of Claude Monet's "Water Lilies," a painting Clark owned, brings in more than $25 million.

Clark's mansion in Santa Barbara, California, will become the home of a charitable arts organization called the Bellosguardo Foundation, with a bequest of at least $4.5 million in cash, as well as assets in the property, valued at about $85 million, and its contents, worth about $6 million, according to figures from the New York State attorney general's office.

Helene Schneider, the mayor of Santa Barbara, called the bequest "an amazing opportunity to create a magnificent organization that will significantly add to our strong artistic and cultural heritage."

Clark's fortune came from her father, William A. Clark, a copper magnate who was one of the country's wealthiest men at the time of his death in 1925. His daughter was reported to have whiled away her final years in her hospital room at Beth Israel playing with her doll collection.   Continued...