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Turmoil of two wills: deal will split heiress's estate

What will sound like a bizarre set of circumstances regarding a wealthy heiress's estate is actually a more common situation than you may think. The following story has a happy outcome; but confusion over a woman's $300 million estate that reigned for years, and it highlights the need for a well organized and clear estate plan.

Huguette Clark, who died in 2011 at the amazing age of 104, had immense wealth. She was bequeathed this wealth thanks to her father, who made many millions of dollars mining copper and helping establish Las Vegas as the city it is today. She owned homes all across the country; but she was also a recluse. Clark was not seen often since the 1960s; and she had been living in a medical center since 1991.

Hiding from the public's eye, many people did not realize that her estate was seemingly being meddled with. Near her death, Clark drafted two separate wills; and the wills were dramatically different. One will left a vast majority of her estate to some distant relatives; while the other will essentially left those relatives out of the will, instead leaving the estate to a nurse, a goddaughter, the hospital she lived at and a number of other organizations and parties.

Questions were raised to the validity of the wills. Had some people tricked Clark -- in declining health and near her death -- into giving her estate away to them?

While the questions lingered, it appears they will not be answered. The parties involved in the two wills reached a deal recently, ending two years of disagreement since Clark's death.

However, this story really is about handling your estate, properly, early in your life. You want to draw up a clear will with the help of an attorney, to ensure it is legally compliant and certified. Then, you can add stipulations and conditions as you choose, ensuring your estate is handled the way you want it to be. This protects your heirs from years of pain and legal stress.

Source: Associated Press, "Deal Over Heiress's Two Wills Benefits Charities and Family," Sept. 24, 2013

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