Obituaries for wealthy recluse Huguette Clark have reignited questions about the final resting place of Clark's fortunes, estimated at around half a billion dollars.
Last year, msnbc.com published a series of investigative reports detailing how Clark abandoned a palatial estate in Santa Barabara, California, a country house in Connecticut and a Fifth Avenue co-op - taken together, worth about $224 million - for the austerity of a hospital room. This curious decision, coupled with reports of extravagant gifts to friends and acquaintances, fueled speculation that Clark's finances were being mismanaged. At the center of this are Clark's lawyer, Wallace Bock, and her accountant, Irving Kamsler.
Three of Clark's relatives filed a petition in September seeking a court-appointed guardian to oversee Clark's finances. The relatives, two of them Clark's nieces and one a nephew, implicated Bock and Kramsler. They charged that Kamsler and Bock were exclusively controlling Clark's affairs and excluding family members, prompted in part by reports that she donated $1.5 million to the West Bank settlement where Bock's daughter lived. They also noted Kamsler has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempting to distribute indecent material to 13 and 15 year old girls online.
Our wish is to protect our aunt against exploitation and we are cooperating with authorities to do all that we can to ensure her health, safety and well-being, the relatives said in a statement. We respect her desire for privacy and request that others do the same for her and our entire family.
A court rejected the relatives' petition, saying that we didn't have a factual basis to say she was incapacitated, according to their attorney Thomas Goldberg. He declined to comment on their reaction to Clark's death, saying only that they are aware of her death and that he has had ongoing contact with them.
News outlets have reported that the Elder Abuse Unit of the New York County District Attorney's office is conducting an investigation into Kamsler and Bock's handling of Clark's accounts. A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney's office could neither confirm nor deny that an investigation was underway.
Neither Kamsler nor Bock has been charged with a crime. But the possibility of their being significant beneficiaries of Clark's will sets the stage for a battle between family members and those who managed her considerable wealth.
Clark inherited the vast fortune of her father William Andrews Clark, a copper tycoon who notoriously bought a seat in the U.S. Senate in the days when senators were chosen by their state legislators rather than through direct election.