When Huguette Clark, daughter of a Montana copper baron who founded Las Vegas, died in 2011 at age 104. She left her $300 million estate to the hospital where she spent the last 20 years of her life, several arts charities, and various employees — but explicitly excluded relatives.
Not surprisingly with so much money at stake, some of those distant relatives have come forward to dispute the 2005 will, which Clark signed when she was 98 years old. A will that she had signed just six weeks before that, left her fortune to distant relatives.
The parties tried and failed to reach a settlement in the case, which delayed the start of a civil trial. The case includes more than 60 attorneys, so the lack of an agreement among them was almost expected. Jury selection began on the case on Thursday, September 19, but was halted so the presiding judge could decide whether attorneys for the art foundation established by Clark’s will, Bellosguardo in Santa Barbara, California, should participate in the case.
Clark’s father was U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark, who made his riches building railroads, running copper mines, and founding Las Vegas. Huguette Clark was his youngest daughter, and she had no children. The relatives challenging her will, who are alleging fraud and that Clark was incompetent when she signed it, are descendants from the first marriage of her father.
In addition to a charitable foundation for the arts and New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center, Clark’s beneficiaries include her attorney, accountant, doctor, and private nurse. The relatives also maintain that Clark had given many of those individuals substantial gifts during her lifetime as well, including more than $30 million to her nurse.
The trial is expected to last up to two months.