Category Archives: Estate Planning

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One person is the biggest loser – Settlement of the Huguette Clark will dispute

Awhile ago we told you about Huguette Clark, a reclusive multimillionaire who died at the age of 104. 

She wrote two wills about six weeks apart.  In the first one, she left the majority of her $300 million estate to her relatives, many of whom she had not seen in many years and some who she had never met.  The second will directly cut out all of her relatives and left $30 million to her private duty nurse, Hadassah Peri, gifts to her lawyers and accountants and funds to create an arts foundation at her $85 million mansion, Bellosguardo, in Santa Barbara, CA.

Some of her relatives contested the will, claiming that she had been unduly influenced by her caretakers.  The case was supposed to go to court but, just as jury selection was about to begin, the case was settled out of court.  An 81-page settlement agreement was presented to the judge and was approved.

19 heirs of Huguette Clark will receive $34.5 million with estate taxes and $11.5 million in attorney fees paid by the estate.  Another big winner in the settlement is the charitable arts foundation that will be created to maintain Bellosguardo.

The biggest loser is her nurse.  Hadassah Peri will not receive the $30 million she was given in the first will and, in fact, will have to pay back $5 million of the $31 million she was given during Huguette Clark’s lifetime.

Those of you who read this blog may not have $300 million and so may think that having a good will, written when there is no question of your mental state, may not be that important.  But it is.  Unless you want your family to have to go to court and fight for what they think they deserve, put your wishes in writing NOW and, if possible, share those wishes with your loved ones so they will know what to expect and can ask any questions they may have….while you can still answer them.

For more information about wills and other issues related to end of life planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

One week to be aware of – National Estate Planning Awareness Week

The week of October 21st is National Estate Planning Awareness Week.  It’s a good time to think about what you want to have happen to your estate when you die.   It really all boils down to how you’ve titled your property and who actually owns what.

There’s a really good article by Julie Garber  that sums it up and gives you specifics to think about.  Read it, decide what you want to do and get started.  You never know what the future will bring and it’s best to be prepared.

For more estate planning information, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

 

 

 

Same sex couple employment tax filings – know what to do?

The IRS recently issued a series of tax revisions that directly impact same sex couples.  Some of them are related to the filing of income tax returns and deductions that are now legal.  This 60 second tip from Robert Keebler, CPA,may give you some information you may need.

Listen now.  It may save you some money.

For more information about the new laws or estate planning, go to diesmart.com.

Pet cemeteries can now bury people…in NY

In 2011, the New York Division of Cemeteries ruled that human burials could not take place in pet cemeteries.  This left many people devastated because they wanted their ashes to be buried with their pets…but they couldn’t be.

According to Ed Marin, owner of the 117 year old Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester, NY, prior to the ban more than 700 people’s ashes had been interred at Hartsdale.  He said that he gets five or six requests per year for this service.

Now, New York state will once again allow animal lovers to be buried with their pets, if the cemeteries agree to two conditions:

1) They won’t charge a fee for the burial.

2) They won’t advertise human burial services.

For more information about burial options and other funeral related information, check out diesmart.com.

 

Bad mistake made by heiress Huguette Clark

Huguette Clark was an heiress who died in 2011 at age 104.  She left behind a $300 million estate.  The bulk of the money was inherited from her father, a copper tycoon in Montana.   She owned a 23-acre estate near Santa Barbara valued at $100 million, a $24 million house in Connecticut and a $100 million coop on Fifth Ave. in New York.  She was a painter and a collector of rare French and Japanese dolls.  She had no children, no close relatives and only limited contact with any of her distant relations.

She spent the last 20 years of her life living at Beth Israel Medical Center as a recluse, closer to her doctors and nurses than any family.

When she died, the only people who attended her burial were funeral home employees.

What did she do wrong?  She left behind two wills, written just six weeks apart.

The first one left  $5 million to her nurses and the balance of the estate to her distant relatives, even though 14 of the 19 involved said that they had never even met Huguette.

The second will left nothing to the relatives.  It specifically said” I intentionally make no provision…for  any members of my family…having had minimal contact with them over the years.”  Instead, charities are the largest beneficiaries, receiving over 80% of the estate.  Also named was her registered nurse, Hadassah Peri, who would receive $15.3 million after taxes, and a goddaughter who would get $7.9 million.  Lesser beneficiaries included Beth Israel Medical Center, her attorney, her personal assistant, her accountant, property managers and one of her doctors.

In addition to what she was given in the will, her registered nurse received more than $31 million in gifts before Clark died and the estate administrator is asking that the $31 million be returned to the estate.

Family members are claiming that the second will was written under duress when she was mentally ill and incompetent and the victim of fraud by her nurse, attorney and accountant.

Negotiations have been going on for a few years, with 60 attorneys involved in the case.  However, the chance of a settlement is not certain and a jury trial is scheduled to begin in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan on September 17th.

Huguette Clark should have had better legal counsel when she decided what to do with her sizeable estate.  She should have prepared a trust, including directions on who had the right to make decisions on her behalf when she was unable to do so.  And she probably should have destroyed the first will.

It will be interesting to see what the probate court decides if a settled hasn’t been reached prior to September 17th.

For more information about Hugette Clark and her reclusive life, look for a book being released on September 10th titled “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.”

To learn more about how to plan for the end of your life, go to www.diesmart.com.