When Huguette Clark died last month at 104, with unknown millions in the bank, a massive art and doll collection, and three multi-million-dollar properties to her name, we speculated on where that massive fortune would end up. One suggestion was that a member of Clark's nursing staff would inherit the money, another was that it would go to a charity, and still another said her lawyer and accountant might get some. Today it turns out all those predictions came true.
Speculation at the time of Clark's death put her fortune at more than a half-billion dollars. Today, The New York Times reports that it was about $400,000,000, which is going to make the few recipients in her will very happy. Most of the money is going to her nurse, Hadassah Peri. Other recipients include Clark's goddaughter Wanda Styka, and a foundation for the arts. Her attorney Wallace Bock, and her accountant Irving Kamsler will each get $500,000. Clark's 42-room apartment on Fifth Avenue and her country estate in New Cannan, Connecticut will be sold off to pay the $44 million in estate taxes, the New York Post reports. But most of the rest will go to a few lucky recipients Let's meet them.
Hadassah Peri: The 60-year-old nurse, originally from the Philippines, has been with Clark since an agency assigned her in 1991. The Los Angeles Times reported that "Peri spent more time with Clark over the last 20 years than anyone else and 'earned the title of 'loyal friend and companion,' ' according to a statement from [estate lawyer John] Dadakis' law firm, Holland & Knight." According to The New York Times, she will receive "Mrs. Clark’s hundreds of dolls, potentially worth millions of dollars. Ms. Peri will also receive 60 percent of the various assets, worth about $40 million, including investments and much of her real estate holdings, not specifically bequeathed in the will."
Peri, who lives in Brooklyn, worked for Clark on an on-call basis 24 hours a day, MSNBC's Bill Dedman reported. In 2000 and 2001, Clark gave Perry about $2 million to buy homes for her family. Those included "two apartments in Manhattan, on E. 96th Street near Park Avenue, for Peri's children to use as dorms while they were in college, the attorney said. They're valued between $200,000 and $350,000 each, according to property records." She also bought a two-unit home in Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay that is now worth about $1.4, according to online tax records. In addition, Clark gave Peri money to buy a $500,000 vacation home near a golf course on the Jersey Shore. Peri gave a statement yesterday to the Post. It reads:
“I saw Madame Clark virtually every day for the 20 years. I was her private duty nurse but also her close friend. I knew her as a kind and generous person, with whom I shared many wonderful moments and whom I loved very much."
"I am profoundly sad at her passing, awed at the generosity she has shown me and my family, and eternally grateful," Peri said.
"Just as Madame Clark demonstrated kindness toward others in her actions, so, too, will I and my family devote a substantial portion of this bequest toward making the world a better place for all people.”
Wanda Styka: Not much is known about Clark's god-daughter, but according to the Post, she is the daughter of the late Polish-born painter Tade Styka, who won the Medal of the Legion of Honor from the French government for his painting. The Stykas and the Clarks were close, and Wanda Styka will inherit a fortune of about $14 million.
The Bellosguardo Foundation: The arts foundation named after Clark's massive Santa Barbara home will include a museum to be housed there. The bulk of Clark's fortune, about $275 million, will go to the foundation, and it will be controlled by her former lawyer and accountant. According to the Post, "that foundation and museum in the 21,000-square-foot mansion will house most of her art collection, which includes pieces by Renoir, John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase, music instruments including a Stradivarius violin and rare books."
Wallace Bock and Irving Kamsler: Perhaps the most interesting and controversial beneficiaries of Clark's will, Bock and Kamsler will receive not only $500,000 each, but will be named executors of her estate and placed on the board of the Bellusguardo Foundation, a situation The Times says may lead them to "gain significant commissions." As the New York Daily News points out in its blaring headline, Clark specified that none of her family members, with whom she had very minimal contact, should be recipients. Meanwhile, Kamsler is a registered sex offender and he and Bock both have been under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's office for possibly mismanaging her affairs. The Times notes the conflict of interest inherent in the will:
Mr. Bock drafted the will that was filed on Wednesday, even though professional rules generally prohibit lawyers from drafting wills in which they are beneficiaries. Exceptions can be granted, however, if the lawyer provides the surrogate’s court with facts showing that the person legitimately wanted to give him the gift, said Ira Bloom, a trusts and estates professor at Albany Law School.