Reluctant heiress leaves million to arts, nurse

Thu Jun 23, 2011 4:27pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A reclusive American heiress, who for decades chose to live in hospitals instead of lavish homes in New York and California, bequeathed her fortune to the arts, a hired nurse and a handful of close associates.

Huguette Clark, 104, died last month. Married briefly in 1928, the heir to a copper, timber and railroad fortune had no children, shunned the social limelight and the trappings of wealth, preferring to tend to her extensive doll collection said to be worth millions.

Clark's estate was valued at about $400 million when she died, according to the law firm Holland & Knight.

"Despite her substantial wealth stemming from the same gilded age that produced the Rockefellers, Astors and Vanderbilts, Huguette Clark lived a remarkably quiet and understated life," said John D. Dadakis, the New York Chair of Holland & Knight Private Wealth Services group.

"Her final will reflects that modesty, as well as her great generosity and empathy for those who took care of her in her later decades," he added in a statement.

In the will Clark stipulated the establishment of a foundation to promote and foster the arts, to be called the Bellosguardo Foundation after her 24-acre oceanfront home in Santa Barbara.

Clark had not been to the home since 1963 when her mother died, but kept it well-maintained for nearly 50 years.

The estate, estimated to be worth over $100 million, will become a museum, housing her collection of art, which included Renoirs, books, musical instruments and other fine objects.

Clark left nothing to any members of her family. Instead she lbequeathed more than $30 million to Hadassah Peri, a nurse assigned to her in 1991 who became Clark's closest companion.   Continued...