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Lawsuits over $300M estate continue

When an individual dies, his or her assets and debts must be distributed and paid. In most cases, estate planning documents such as a will or trust help direct loved ones in determining how assets and possessions are to be distributed. Sometimes, however, a will may be contested or other financial and estate planning matters disputed.

The estate of the late heiress Hauguette Clark has been in dispute since Clark's death in 2011. Clark died at the age of 104 and, at the time of her death, had an estate worth an estimated $300 million. Clark had no children and therefore claims to her fortune were bitterly disputed by numerous parties who aimed to assert having a claim to her millions.

The most recent dispute over the late heiress' fortune involves her former night nurse, Geraldine Coffey. For some 20 years, the woman served as Clark's nurse and attended to her needs every night. During that time, Clark gifted Coffey real estate worth a reported $385,000 and helped pay for her children's $85,000 tuition.

While Clark's will included language that she intended to "provide for" her former night nurse, Coffey was not directly mentioned in the will. In response, she recently filed a lawsuit contesting the will and seeking to claim her share of Clark's estate.

In response to the lawsuit, lawyers for Clark's estate are counter suing Coffey and seeking to recover assets gifted during her time as Clark's nurse. In their counter lawsuit, attorneys for the estate contend Coffey used undue influence and pressured the late heiress into giving her gifts and money.

While most New York residents may not have estates worth several millions of dollars, in the wake of one’s death, disputes among surviving heirs and close friends can erupt. In cases where an individual believes a loved one was pressured or taken advantage of when making certain estate planning decisions, it's wise to contact an attorney who handles matters related to probate litigation.

Source: ABA Journal, “Night nurse for reclusive heiress seeks pieces of $300 million estate,” Mark Hansen, Jan. 10, 2014. 

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