This is an excerpt adapted from "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune," the new book by NBC News investigative reporter Bill Dedman and Huguette's cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr. Newell is not involved in the legal battle over her $300 million copper-mining fortune. A trial is scheduled to start Sept. 17. Learn more about the book here . All of NBC's stories on Huguette Clark are at http://nbcnews.com/clark/.
Nineteen of Huguette's closest relatives, her Clark relatives, went to court in 2012 to throw out her last will and testament.
If the will were overturned, they would inherit her entire fortune, more than $300 million. The nineteen relatives were W.A.'s great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. To Huguette, eleven were her half-grandnieces and grandnephews, and eight were a generation further removed, her half-great-grandnieces and grandnephews.
You could say that they had already gotten their share of the copper mining fortune of W. A. Clark. The millions had been divided equally among his five surviving children: Huguette and her four half-siblings from his first marriage. Each of W.A.'s five children who lived to adulthood had received one-fifth of his estate after his death in 1925: equal shares for May, Katherine, Charlie, Will, and Huguette. Huguette got her allowance for a couple of years, and eventually got something extra, inheriting Bellosguardo and the jewels and cash that her mother had received from her prenup. But W.A.'s plan, it seemed, was to treat each of his children equally.
None of that mattered, under the law. If the nineteen relatives could persuade a judge or jury in Surrogate's Court to overturn the will, they would be allowed to sell the Bellosguardo vacation home in Santa Barbara, to sell the paintings, her castles, her dolls. Nothing would go to her nurse Hadassah Peri, her assistant Chris Sattler, her goddaughter Wanda Styka, nothing to the Corcoran museum or Beth Israel hospital—nothing to the people and institutions she had supported while she lived. Not only would attorney Wally Bock and accountant Irving Kamsler not get their $500,000 bequests, but they would lose their $3 million commissions as executors, and the chance to reap fees as trustees of a new Bellosguardo Foundation.