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NY Times – Recluse Left Bulk of Wealth for Art Charity and to Her Nurse

Posted by 4love2love on June 23, 2011

By 
Published: June 22, 2011

For the past several decades, Huguette Clark, a wealthy copper heiress, had largely been a mystery to the public. She cloistered herself in hospitals in New York, and saw only a small number of visitors. She had no children and no close relatives.

Associated Press

Huguette Clark in 1930. Though healthy until near her death last month, she lived for decades in a hospital, even while healthy.

Her fortune was clearly huge — including a 42-room apartment on Fifth Avenue; an oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara, Calif.; and a country manor in New Canaan, Conn. — but her net worth was not clear.

So when Mrs. Clark died last month at age 104, it naturally raised questions: How much was there to be inherited, and who would get it?

Some clarity was provided on Wednesday when a lawyer filed a will in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan that Mrs. Clark had executed in 2005.

Mrs. Clark’s estate is worth about $400 million, and is made up of an art collection with works by Monet, Renoir, John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase; her real estate and financial investments; and a vast doll collection, from porcelains to Barbies, said John D. Dadakis, a lawyer at the firm Holland & Knight, who filed the will.

Mrs. Clark’s nurse and close friend, Hadassah Peri, is the individual who will benefit most. She will get Mrs. Clark’s hundreds of dolls, potentially worth millions of dollars. Ms. Peri will also receive 60 percent of the various assets, worth about $40 million, including investments and much of her real estate holdings, not specifically bequeathed in the will. Mrs. Clark’s goddaughter, Wanda Styka, will get 25 percent.

Most of Mrs. Clark’s assets will go into a foundation that will be established to promote the arts. It will be directed in part by the man who drafted the will, her New York lawyer, and her accountant, both of whom Manhattan prosecutors are investigating for how they handled Mrs. Clark’s money. The foundation, according to the will, will receive her Santa Barbara estate, most of her art collection, all of her musical instruments and her rare book collection.

The will, dated April 19, 2005, leaves $1 million to Beth Israel Medical Center, where she lived in her final years, even while in good health, and where she died; $500,000 to her assistant; and $100,000 to a physician. A 1907 original from Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series — kept from public view for more than eight decades — is given to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.

Perhaps the most notable provisions in the will are those that will leave $500,000 each to Mrs. Clark’s New York lawyer, Wallace Bock, and to her accountant, Irving H. Kamsler, and the section that states explicitly that no family members were beneficiaries because of her minimal contact with them.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is investigating how Mr. Bock and Mr. Kamsler have handled Mrs. Clark’s money, according to a person briefed on the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Bock drafted the will that was filed on Wednesday, even though professional rules generally prohibit lawyers from drafting wills in which they are beneficiaries. Exceptions can be granted, however, if the lawyer provides the surrogate’s court with facts showing that the person legitimately wanted to give him the gift, said Ira Bloom, a trusts and estates professor at Albany Law School.

Mr. Bock and Mr. Kamsler also stand to gain significant commissions because the will names them the executors of Mrs. Clark’s estate and it names them to the board of the new foundation.

Mr. Dadakis, who is representing Mr. Bock and Mr. Kamsler in the surrogate’s court proceeding, said that both men had done what Mrs. Clark had asked of them, and that she left them money because they were close to her.

“When you understand who Mrs. Clark was,” Mr. Dadakis said, “I think you clearly see that this is a lady that was very strong willed. This will speaks for that being strong willed, the way she was.”

Robert J. Anello, who represents Mr. Bock in the criminal investigation, said the will was evidence that his client had acted “consistent with her wishes and he’s done that remarkably well.”

While it is too early to tell whether anyone will object to the will, some of Mrs. Clark’s distant relatives have in the past questioned whether Mr. Bock and Mr. Kamsler acted in her best interest and said they blocked visits from the relatives.

© 2011 The New York Time

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