All About Estates

Huguette Clark’s estate – its not over.

Just when I thought I had written all I could about the estate of the late Huguette Clark, there is more.

For new readers I am referring to the reclusive multi millionaire who passed away in 2011 at the age of 104. She had lived the last 20 years of her life in a New York City hospital room. At the time of her death, questions arose about the circumstances surrounding her last Will. After 19 relatives challenged the Will, and a lengthy legal battle, a Settlement as to the division of the estate was reached. The Settlement allowed the estate representatives to pursue the recovery of gifts Huguette made prior to her death. As the New York Times recently reported, a Judge has ruled that the statute of limitations applies to some of the gifts made by Huguette to the hospital.

I wonder if Huguette would have done anything differently had she known about these outcomes.

I have mentioned some of the lessons learned in a previous blog. Bill Dedman, author of the terrific book, Empty Mansions, recently sent me the attached link to video testimonies given by Huguette’s nurse, Hadassah Peri, and her attorney, Wally Bock, which give me reason to reflect on three additional lessons;

• Testamentary freedom seems simple, but if circumstances include a complex family situation or large and/or complex assets, then seek professional assistance with a wealth transfer plan from experienced practitioners. Unfortunately, the cheapest and easiest solutions can create problems. As of this moment, the estate of Huguette Clark is still years away from being settled and it is dealing with $18 million in tax penalties.

• Notwithstanding the prestige of owning a Bentley, they are not enjoyable cars (as stated in the aforementioned video testimony by Hadassah who purchased a Bentley from one of the three $5 million cheques she was given by Huguette).

• Giving your child a Stradivarius violin is not a reliable incentive to get said child to play violin (as suggested by Hadassah in the aforementioned video testimony, when discussing the Stradivarius violin given to her by Huguette).

About Paul Fensom
Scotiatrust offers a full range of estate, trust and philanthropic advisory services designed to meet a client’s personal objectives and designed to evolve across a variety of life stages and financial events. Email: