Service of Where There’s a Will

October 28th, 2013

Categories: Communications, Last Will and Testament, Loyalty


Huguette Clark

Huguette Clark

Huguette Clark was a recluse copper heiress who died two years ago at 104. She wrote two wills within months of one another. In the first one she left money to distant family members–she had no surviving close relatives and hardly saw or heard from most in any case. One sent Christmas cards from 2007-2010.

In the second will she left them not a cent and made it clear that it was her intention “having had minimal contact with them over the years,” according to Anemona Hartocollis in “Two Wills, One Private Heiress” in The New York Times. [Photo below, right, is David Wilkie’s painting “Reading the Will,” courtesy Wikipedia.]

"Reading the Will" by David Wilkie, Photo WikipediaThe bulk of the second will consisted of the California mansion, Bellosguardo, its contents–art and music collections–which she formed into an art foundation and there were gifts to “her goddaughter; her primary doctor, Henry Singman; her accountant, Irving Kamsler; her lawyer, Wallace Bock; and Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, where she lived for the last 20 years of her life. Mrs. Clark’s longtime nurse, Hadassah Peri, would receive her rare doll collection and 60 percent of whatever was left — potentially millions — after the other bequests were made. (Mrs. Peri also received more than $31 million in property, cash and gifts outside the will, according to court papers.)”

Surprise: The “family” has contested the will.

Cemetary 2Survivors are descendants of her father and his first wife. There are 19 trying to establish whether they ever met or spoke with Mrs. Clark. Some claim to have seen her in the 1940s or 1950s.

She chose to live in neither the California mansion nor a huge NYC apartment. She preferred Beth Israel hospital, where she set up house from 1991 to her death because there she felt cared for.  

Hartocollis points to key questions brought on by this will: “How is wealth transferred in later generations? What does an elderly person owe relatives who hardly knew her and did not take care for her in her dotage, as opposed to the hired help who did? Do family ties still bind between people who have never even met?”

Do you agree that these questions are at the heart of the matter? Do you believe half blood is thicker than water?

genealogy tree

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10 Responses to “Service of Where There’s a Will”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    On Facebook Donna wrote: “As an adoptee, I believe you have a right to choose your associations–and if someone treats you well, then they can and should be considered “family” in every sense of the word.”

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree with you. I have friends whose families have been their friends–not a family member within miles as they’ve died. Why should such family members receive so much as a used Q-tip? I’m still fond of and in touch with ex-in-laws. Had I an estate a tenth the size of Mrs. Clark’s, why should some cousin I’ve never met and hardly know exists receive something before these ex in-laws?

  3. Stephanie Schley Said:

    On Facebook Stephanie Schley wrote: I believe the nurse, who was closest to her,should have gotten the money as per the will, I believe this was not the outcome. GREED SUCKS !

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    According to the article, Mrs. Clark’s relatives were neither poor nor needy.

  5. JPM Said:

    I believe the Law and certainly ethics are quite clear on this subject. We are entitled to leave our estates to whom we please, except, not unreasonably, in the case of husbands and wives. Likewise, executors are obligated, whether they agree with them or not, to carry out the wishes of the deceased.

    I know of two cases where this did not happen:

    In one, an angry, nasty, vindictive old man, two years before he died, wrote a will in which he disinherited his children and named as his executor a bitter enemy of his wife, a convicted felon who was a former business associate of theirs. His wife, upon finding his will after his death, destroyed it and claimed that her husband had died intestate. Her lawyer chose not to question her claim.

    In the other, an equally angry, nasty, vindictive old woman, wrote a will in which she attempted to exert control over heirs for years to come. Her executor took legally permissible steps to carry out the letter of her will, but not its intent.

    In both cases, if believe that a good case may be made that those involved did the right thing in ignoring the wishes of the deceased.

    As to Huguette Clark, I smell a bunch of shysters in the proverbial woodpile, and the only way to get rid of the shysters is to close the law schools, which might not be a bad idea.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What stories!

    Nasty people often, but not always, spawn nasty children…apples falling near trees and all…so maybe the nasty old man had cause. I feel badly for the children of mean wealthy people who haven’t understood that it’s up to them to make their own way and who depend on inheriting and therefore feel they must stay in touch with and be manipulated by a horrible parent.

    Without sleazy clients shysters would have no air and would shrivel like neglected plants. Stephanie, in an earlier comment, chose the word greed which feeds too many of both and always has.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Nothing new here. No one has obligations to anyone other than spouse and children, and even then, there could be mitigating circumstances. The Clark story is only one of many sad displays of greed and bad behavior.

  8. Deborah Brown Said:

    I do not understand why Ms Clark did not have an air tight will that clearly laid out her intentions. She also might have done a video tape recounting her intentions. There are many expert elder lawers that could have done better by her last wishes. It’s a good lesson to every “senior” to be very specific in the details, including to whom they do not wish to leave more than $1.00. I fear the advice she received from her advisors was sadly lacking and incomplete; thus the window for the greedy relatives.

  9. Tom Said:

    For “the law,” apparently blood is thicker than water, unless a will
    clearly and unambiguously states otherwise. In the case you describe, again just
    from the standpoint of “the law,” there is a legitimate question, or so it seems to me, about the two wills which were written so closely together. What were the conditions under which the second will was written? Was there undue influence exerted by unhappy caregivers who may have found out about the first one? But you are all quite correct. When it comes down to it, the whole situation smells of greed, on the part of the distant relatives and on the part of the caregivers. Too bad the dear lady didn’t leave everything to her favorite charities!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There was a radio commercial touting some kind of service or maybe the lottery. It depicted a mailroom clerk who fantasized that the boss or a client [I don’t recall] was leaving a huge estate to him because he was so wonderful at his job. The point was not to count on it but to make other plans. I feel sorry for anybody who spends a life hoping to poach off parents instead of doing something for themselves. They miss a feeling of satisfaction and integrity.

    As for the law, friends of my parents had a constant fight about moving to the Sunshine State. At the time, anyway, a spouse didn’t have to leave a cent to his/her spouse in Florida where in the state they’d always lived, she had to inherit at least half. She didn’t trust him–he was always promising the moon and giving nothing both to control and because he was stingy [and money was no object]. They never moved!

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