Huguette Clark, daughter and heiress of copper mining magnate William A. Clark, wasted more than $300,000 yearly on homes and property that she didn’t live in for the final twenty years of her life. This is the perfect example of what can happen when wealth is not giving a direction or purpose.
Tragically, the heiress’s estate is still causing regrets—now for her family. Clark’s estate is being disputed, as there exists two different wills signed six years before her death.
The first will gives most of her vast wealth to twenty-one distant relatives, whom she did not list by name and likely did not know very well. The second will, created a month later, gives money to her caregiver and a goddaughter. It also establishes a foundation for her doll and art collection, which includes one of Monet’s Water Lilies paintings worth $25 mllion. In the second will, the distant relatives inherit nothing.
The New York Times reports, “The relatives could receive millions of dollars each if one or both wills is overturned or a settlement is reached. The caregiver and charities Mrs. Clark gave her money to could get nothing. Then there are millions of dollars in legal fees to law firms and tens of millions of dollars in estate taxes to the federal government…”
Though Clark’s second will was in place for six years before she died, she was ninety-eight years old when she signed it, leading to doubts about its validity.
This case is, unfortunately, not uncommon. Will contests are often brought when parents treat their children differently. They can even be brought by distant relatives who have little connection to the deceased.
Litigation is costly and time-consuming and can cause immense regrets for all involved. Cases like Clark’s illustrate why it is so important to create a plan for your wealth. With the proper planning in place, you can enjoy your wealth now and leave a lasting legacy for your family – minimizing the risk of regret now and fighting later.