Reluctant heiress leaves million to arts, nurse

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 23, 2011 8:58 PM
Reluctant heiress leaves million to arts, nurse

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A reclusive American heiress, who for decades chose to live in hospitals instead of lavish homes in New York and California, bequeathed her fortune to the arts, a hired nurse and a handful of close associates.

Huguette Clark, 104, died last month. Married briefly in 1928, the heir to a copper, timber and railroad fortune had no children, shunned the social limelight and the trappings of wealth, preferring to tend to her extensive doll collection said to be worth millions.

Clark's estate was valued at about $400 million when she died, according to the law firm Holland & Knight.

"Despite her substantial wealth stemming from the same gilded age that produced the Rockefellers, Astors and Vanderbilts, Huguette Clark lived a remarkably quiet and understated life," said John D. Dadakis, the New York Chair of Holland & Knight Private Wealth Services group.

"Her final will reflects that modesty, as well as her great generosity and empathy for those who took care of her in her later decades," he added in a statement.

In the will Clark stipulated the establishment of a foundation to promote and foster the arts, to be called the Bellosguardo Foundation after her 24-acre oceanfront home in Santa Barbara.

Clark had not been to the home since 1963 when her mother died, but kept it well-maintained for nearly 50 years.

The estate, estimated to be worth over $100 million, will become a museum, housing her collection of art, which included Renoirs, books, musical instruments and other fine objects.

Clark left nothing to any members of her family. Instead she lbequeathed more than $30 million to Hadassah Peri, a nurse assigned to her in 1991 who became Clark's closest companion.

Beth Israel Hospital in New York, where Clark was described as having been a "semi-permanent resident" for 20 years after leaving her lavish, 42-room New York apartment, received $1 million.

She also made bequests of $500,000 to her lawyer and accountant, both of whom are being investigated by Manhattan's district attorney over the handling of her financial affairs.

Monet's seminal "Water Lilies", unseen publicly since 1925 and valued at about $25 million, will go to Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art, where a gallery bears the name of her father, U.S. Sen. William A. Clark, who died in 1925.

Another home in Connecticut, exquisitely maintained and unseen by its owner for decades, is on the market for $24 million.