Farrell Fritz and Holland & Knight will each pick up $11.5 million in fees from the estate of reclusive copper mining heiress Huguette Clark under a settlement announced this week, while Greenfield Stein & Senior will receive $1.5 million.
Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson (See Profile) endorsed the settlement Tuesday as a “fair result.”
Farrell Fritz represents relatives of Clark, who will get $34.5 million under the settlement, even though Clark’s original will left them nothing. The relatives are great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of Clark’s father from his first marriage.
Holland & Knight represents Clark’s attorney, Wallace Bock of Collier, Halpern, Newberg, Nolletti & Bock, who acted as proponent of Clark’s will.
Though Bock remained the proponent of the will through this week’s settlement, he was suspended from administering Clark’s $300 million estate in December 2011 by Manhattan Surrogate Kristin Booth Glen, amid allegations that he committed tax fraud to avoid paying taxes on gifts from Clark. A criminal investigation was launched against Bock and Clark’s accountant, Irving Kamsler, but no charges were ever filed.
The Manhattan public administrator subsequently took over administration of the estate, and filed a legal malpractice suit against Bock, which is pending. Clark’s will left $500,000 to Bock, but under the settlement he will not receive that money.
Greenfield Stein represented Clark’s nurse, Hadassah Peri, who received $31 million worth of gifts from Clark while she was alive, and was set to get another $30 million in Clark’s original will. Under the settlement, she will get nothing and instead pay back $5 million, settling a clawback lawsuit by the public administrator, which claimed that Peri and others close to Clark in her last years exerted undue influence over her.
“We’re pleased that the matter has been resolved and Mrs. Clark’s will has been admitted to probate,” said Bruce Ross of Holland & Knight.
“We’re very happy to put all litigation behind us,” said Harvey Corn of Greenfield Stein. “We wanted to see peace in the Clark family.”
John Morken of Farrell Fritz, the lead attorney for the relatives, declined to comment.
Georgiana Slade of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, who represents the public administrator, could not be reached.
Clark was the daughter of U.S. Senator William Clark, who made a fortune from Montana copper mines, railroad construction and other enterprises. She was known as a recluse for most of her life, and spent her last 20 years living in a Manhattan hospital instead of her homes in Manhattan, Connecticut and California.
Clark frequently made generous gifts to friends and sometimes to near-strangers. Following her death in 2011, at age 104, relatives challenged her will, alleging that Bock, Peri and others had manipulated Clark near the end of her life.
The dispute was set to go to trial when Anderson approved the settlement on Tuesday.
In addition to leaving money to the relatives, the settlement leaves $10 million to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and creates a new arts foundation which will get about $100 million, including a California property valued at around $85 million.
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