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Clark estate dispute may end with settlement

We wrote last week about the estate planning dispute involving the estate of copper heiress Huguette Clark, involving the issue of whether Clark had capacity when she executed her second will. As our readers will remember, the second will drastically changed how Clark disposed of her assets, and named some sketchy beneficiaries, including her attorney, her caretakers, and the institution where she lived out her last years.

The dispute may be close to resolving, according to the latest news reports. Although jury selection has already taken place for trial of the case, a tentative settlement has apparently been reached in which relatives would receive $34.5 million after taxes, while Clark’s primary nurse would be required to return a doll collection valued at around $1.6 million, as well as $5 million. Clark’s attorney is to receive nothing under the settlement. 

Further details have not been made official yet, so not much more can be said. What is important to mention, though, is that while thorough estate planning aims at reducing the possibility of will disputes like the one in this case, it is not always possible to prevent them entirely.

Clear communication with family members and beneficiaries, careful execution of documents, additional documentation, medical verification of competency and other means can be used to prevent the possibility of will disputes, but sometimes these disputes just happen. All it takes is somebody stepping forward and making an accusation.

That said, taking appropriate steps to prevent such disputes is always a good idea, and in most cases is able to hold off the possibility of major will disputes erupting. Working with an experienced attorney is certainly helpful to this end.

Source: USA Today, “Tentative deal in reclusive heiress will dispute,” Jennifer Peltz, September 22, 2013.