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Huguette Clark will dispute a reminder of importance of capacity, professionalism

Disturbing details have just been revealed in the ongoing litigation over the $300 million estate of the late copper heiress Huguette Clark. As our readers know, the litigation involves two separate wills, one in which Clark left most of her wealth to 21 distant relatives she did not know and a second--signed a month later--increasing a bequest to Clark's caretaker, setting up a foundation for her art and doll collection, and disinheriting her relatives.

It has most recently emerged that during the execution of the second will, Clark mumbled something incoherent and required help in signing her name, doing so very slowly and with difficulty. Court documents detail that the attorney involved in the second signing and Huguette's accountant--a convicted sex offender--were so excited about signing the new will that they went directly from the hospital to a bar to celebrate. 

Clark, of course, was an unusual woman, and spent the last 20 years of her life hospitalized, fearful she was dying when in fact she was not ill at all. In question in the litigation is whether Clark had capacity to properly execute a will.

It is detailed in court documents that during those years, staff members at Beth Israel Medical Center allegedly researched Clarke’s life and history in order to find ways to encourage her to donate money. In the end, Clark gave the hospital at least $4 million in donations, not including the $1,200 per week she paid to live at the facility. The lawsuit, filed by Clark’s family, disputes a $1 million bequest to the hospital which cut them out and put in place a string of acquaintances.

The lawsuit involves not only the serious issue of capacity, but also that of professionalism. In our next post, we’ll continue exploring this story and offer some thoughts on how it might inform our readers’ approach to estate planning.

Source: Daily Mail Online, “Reclusive heiress Huguette Clark was ‘incoherent and barely able to hold the pen’ when she signed new will excluding her family from $307m fortune,” Rachel Quigley, July 8, 2013. 

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