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Settlement of estate stalled by nurse to late heiress

Over the years since the founding of Las Vegas by Senator William Clark, a fortune was amassed through the magnate's copper mining interests and other investments. His daughter and sole heir, Huguette Clark, passed away in 2011. At the time the estate administration began, her fortune totaled about $300 million. Most Clark County residents will not find themselves dealing with such complex estates. The basic legal aspects of probate, however, are not very different.

Though not in ill-health, the 104-year-old recluse resided in an east coast hospital for about 20 years prior to her death. According to reports, during her lifetime she frequently gave her caregivers, including her daytime and nighttime nurses, gifts and cash. The daytime nurse allegedly received $31 million in gifts during her lifetime. Reportedly, the nighttime nurse only received gifts totaling about $1 million.

Settlement of the estate was approved by the court last fall. It is presently being held up by the nighttime nurse's refusal to sign off on it. She claims in documents filed last week she was kept out of the settlement negotiations with the other beneficiaries and thus received no inheritance. She asserts her patient promised to provide for her after she was gone. However, the nurse was not written into the will.

Further complicating probate is litigation against the caregiver seeking the return of $385,000 used to buy her condominium, and $85,000 used for her children's tuition. The estate counsel alleges in the suit that the gifts were made by the heiress under pressure from the defendant.

Will contest and litigation in some circumstances can't be avoided. But for most people, careful planning will ward off misunderstandings as much as possible. Communication prior to the need for estate administration, as well as solid legal documents, can ensure assets are divided as desired.

Source: New York Post, "Huguette nurse sues for slice of $300M fortune" Julia Marsh, Jan. 06, 2014

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