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Staff of Reclusive Heiress Coerced Her Out of $44M in Gifts, Executor Says

Posted May 23, 2012 4:37 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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Nurses, doctors, a hospital, a lawyer and an accountant for reclusive heiress Huguette Clark coerced or influenced her out of more than $44 million in gifts, the executor of her estate said in a court filing Tuesday.

The executor, who doesn't deny that Clark authorized nearly all of those gifts, is asking the court to order all of the money to be repaid, msnbc.com's Open Channel blog reports.

The petition is an attempt to return to the estate millions of dollars that the executor claims was bled away from the heiress by fraud or undue influence. Two other petitions were expected to be filed by the executor Wednesday, one accusing her lawyer and one accusing her accountant of malpractice and breach of fidicuciary duty.

The accusations were vigorously denied by Clark's attorney, whose representative said that any attempt to suggest that the gifts were not freely given is to "denigrate the person who gave these gifts, as well as the recipients who cared for her with their love."

Clark, the heiress to a family fortune valued at $400 million, died last May in New York at age 104. She had no close relatives, and most of her money went to an art charity.

According to the executor's filing, Clark gave her longtime nurse and her family $31 million in gifts, including jewelry, dolls, a Stradivarius violin and money to buy five homes.

Another $6.3 million was given to Beth Israel Medical Center, which allowed Clark to live in the hospital for much of the last two decades of her life even though she was quite healthy.

Clark's two doctors and their families received gifts totaling $3.1 million.

Her accountant got $375,000. Her lawyer received $60,000, in addition to the $1.85 million he got after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks for a security system for his daughter's Israeli community on the West Bank.

Clark's relatives alleged in a court filing last year that Clark's lawyer and accountant mishandled and misappropriated her assets in the 15 years prior to her death.

And New York's public administrator accused the pair last December of failing to pay $90 million Clark owed in federal gift taxes and penalties.

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