Battle of the Wills - What Happens When More than One Last Will and Testament Turns Up
Huguette Clark, a New York heiress with an estate valued at more than $400 million, died last year just shy of her 105th birthday. A Last Will and Testament executed by Clark in May of 2005 was entered into probate shortly after her death.
The Will left nothing to Clark’s family, instead her estate was left to her long-time private nurse, a museum to be created out of her California estate and a few other non-family members. Not long after the first Will was produced, a second Will emerged -- this one executed just six weeks prior to the first Will. The most recent Will wins in a battle of the Wills right? Not all the time.
Clark’s fortune is the result of being the only surviving child of an industrialist who made his fortune at the turn of the 19th century as well as serving as a U.S. Senator. Clark was a divorcee and never had children. Clark’s extended family contends that Clark’s intention was always to keep the family fortune within the family. In support of this, the family points not only to the Will Clark executed just weeks prior to the one produced for probate, but also to other Wills executed by Clark throughout her lifetime.
Clark was a recluse, by any definition. Despite owning estates in both New York and California, as well as being in relatively good health, Clark lived in a hospital in New York for the last 20 years. Clark appeared to have had very little contact with any of her family members. Whether Clark’s isolation was of her own choosing, or as a result of undue influence by non-family members close to Clark, will be an issue for the probate court to decide.
If the court decides that the most recent Will was executed under duress or as a result of undue influence by those close to Clark, then the court will declare the Will to be invalid which may then result in reinstatement of the second Will -- leaving everything to Clark’s family after all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charles Pyke
Experienced estate planning attorneys Atlanta GA of the Pyke & Associates P.C. offers estate planning and business planning resources to residents of Atlanta GA.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.