Huguette (pronounced "oo-GET") Marcelle Clark was the youngest daughter of former U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), one of the copper kings of Montana and one of the richest men of the Gilded Age, a railroad builder and founder of Las Vegas. Born in Paris in 1906, Huguette was a shy painter and doll collector who spent her last 20 years living in simple hospital rooms. She attracted the attention of NBC News in 2009 because her fabulous homes in Connecticut, California and New York sat unoccupied but carefully maintained.
NBC's archive of Clark stories, photos and videos is at http://nbcnews.com/clark/.
After she died at 104 in May 2011, Clark's will was challenged by 19 of her relatives, who contend that she was mentally ill and incompetent, the victim of fraud by her nurse, attorney and accountant. These relatives are descendants from Clark's father's first marriage, the closest to her being half grandnieces and grandnephews. Her will says, "I intentionally make no provision ... for any members of my family ... having had minimal contacts with them over the years."
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Fourteen of the 19 said in legal papers that they never met their reclusive aunt. The last time any of them recalled speaking with her in person was in 1957, although some said hello when their parents were on the phone with Huguette on holidays. If a jury throws out the will, they will inherit all her estate, valued conservatively at $307 million, or about $175 million after taxes and fees. She had no children and no survivors on her mother's side. A 20th Clark relative was found dead of exposure in December under a Wyoming railroad trestle. His heirs will receive his share of any winnings.
Next in the will are her registered nurse, Hadassah Peri, receiving $15.3 million after taxes, including the doll collection worth $1.7 million; goddaughter Wanda Styka (pronounced STEE-kuh), $7.9 million; Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, $1 million; attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock, $500,000; personal assistant Christopher Sattler, $370,000; accountant Irving Kamsler, $370,000; property managers John C. Douglas III in California, $163,000, and Tony Ruggiero in Connecticut, $12,000; and the doctor, Singman, who has given up his gift. (Document: Read Huguette Clark's will here.)
Clark had signed a will just six weeks earlier, making only one bequest: $5 million to nurse Peri. The rest of the money under that will would have gone by default to her relatives, who were not named. The attorney and accountant say that Clark signed the first will because she wanted to fulfill a promise to give another $5 million to Peri, and that they agreed with Clark that she would soon finish a list of beneficiaries, which was made official in the second will.
The attorney and accountant are also expected to renounce their bequests so they can testify freely. Although a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney officially remains open, no one has been charged. Police found that the paper trail supported the attorney and accountant's account that Clark authorized expenses and gifts, writing checks in her own steady hand, the same handwriting that appears on the will.
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—By Bill Dedman, NBC News.