Heiress Huguette Clark Signed 2 Wills: NYC Filing

One leaves most of her $400 million estate to her family, while another left nothing to relatives

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Taken in 1930, about the time of her divorce, this is the last known photo of Huguette Clark.

    A newly publicized will by an heiress to a Montana copper mining fortune leaves most of her $400 million estate to her family, while a will signed just weeks later left nothing to relatives.

    The childless Huguette Clark died in May at age 104 — a last breath of New York's Gilded Age that produced the Rockefellers, Astors and Vanderbilts.

    Her relatives brought the new will to light on Monday: They filed court papers asking a Surrogate's Court judge to involve them in proceedings about how her money was spent — and by whom — while she was alive.

    Clark's relatives accuse her co-executors, attorney Wallace Bock and accountant Irving Kamsler, of plundering her fortune. The two were among the few who for years had access to the reclusive Clark in her Manhattan hospital room. Clark had left her 42-room Manhattan home — the largest residence on Fifth Avenue — decades earlier, choosing to live undisturbed at the hospital.

    A court-ordered accounting of the Paris-born heiress' finances as overseen by Bock and Kamsler in the last 15 years of her life is "a chilling report of the mishandling, misappropriation and mismanagement" of her assets, the relatives' lawyer, John R. Morken, wrote in papers filed Monday.

    While Clark was confined to a hospital room, her spending amounted to about $1 million each month, Morken said, citing the figures.

    Monday's filing included a will signed in March 2005, about six weeks before another will that Bock and Kamsler filed shortly after Clark's death.

    The March 2005 will benefits 21 relatives on the side of Clark's father, U.S. Sen. William A. Clark, who represented Montana after building one of America's largest fortunes mining copper, building railroads and founding Las Vegas. Nevada's Clark County is named for him. His wealth vied with that of the Rockefellers.

    A will signed in April 2005, by contrast, gives Clark's family nothing and leaves her money mainly to charity and her nurse.

    Morken writes that beyond any financial interest, the relatives are concerned about their heritage — and "that a very significant member of their family should have fallen victim, it appears, to the greed of persons who had put themselves in a position of trust with their great-aunt."

    No criminal charges have been filed against Bock or Kamsler, and both have denied any wrongdoing in their dealings with Clark. Bock "always acted consistent with her wishes and carried them out to the letter," his lawyer, Robert J. Anello, said Monday.

    Kamsler, his lawyer and an attorney for the Clark estate didn't immediately return phone calls Monday.

    The Manhattan district attorney's office has been looking into how Clark's affairs were managed in the past two decades, people familiar with the probe have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office did not immediately respond Monday to an inquiry about Clark.

    State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office also is keeping an eye on the Clark estate as part of its oversight role over estates and the execution of them.

    It's not the first time the handling of Clark's finances — and her life — has come into question.

    The April 2005 will showed she was leaving $34 million to her longtime private nurse and about $300 million to the arts. The fortune includes a prized Claude Monet water-lily painting not seen by the public since 1925; she gave it to Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art.

    In that will, Clark left instructions for the creation of a foundation "for the primary purpose of fostering and promoting the arts" — based at her 24-acre oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara, Calif., which would be converted into a museum. Bock and Kamsler would oversee the foundation; they also were left $500,000 apiece.

    The Santa Barbara estate was where Clark spent her youth, but she had not been back since 1963, when her mother died.

    Clark was married briefly in her 20s to a poor bank clerk studying law. They parted ways after only nine months.

    After her mother's death, her once lively life amid New York's cultured world — with forays to Europe — became more solitary, and she rarely ventured from her Fifth Avenue home.

    About six months before Clark's death, three of her relatives asked a Manhattan judge to appoint a guardian for her. Citing news reports and other information, they accused Bock and Kamsler of exercising "improper influence" over her and limiting family members' contact with her. But the state Supreme Court justice rebuffed the request, saying the relatives relied on hearsay and "speculative assertions" that she was incapacitated.

    Clark died on May 24, more than a century after she was born in Paris to the 67-year-old U.S. senator and a 28-year-old Michigan woman.