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Jury choice starts, stops in NY heiress will trial

September 19, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — A legal battle over whether a reclusive heiress’ home worth millions of dollars could be transformed into a museum has been put on hold by the presiding judge until she decides whether attorneys for an arts foundation should participate in the case.

Hugutte Clark signed two wills in 2005 worth $300 million. The first which includes most of her estate was bequeathed to distant relatives. In the second, she left her money to arts charities, a hospital, a nurse, a goddaughter, doctors and others. Among the charities: a foundation to transform her Santa Barbara home, called Bellosguardo, into the museum.

Clark’s father, U.S. Sen. William A. Clark, was one of the richest Americans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He initially made his fortune from copper mining in Montana and moved onto other ventures, including establishing a Nevada railroad town dubbed Las Vegas.

The county that now surrounds the gambling capital, Clark County, is named after him.

The childless, briefly married Clark was 104 when she died in 2011. She owned the largest apartment on New York’s Fifth Avenue, an oceanfront estate in California, and a manse on 52 acres (21 hectares) in Connecticut.

The childless, briefly married Clark was 104 when she died in 2011.

Clark’s relatives want the second portion of the will invalidated. They say it’s a product of manipulation by the hospital, the nurse, her lawyer, her accountant and others.

The beneficiaries say it represents Clark’s true wishes, noting that she had minimal contact with the nearly two dozen relatives who are seeking a share of her wealth. They are descendants of her half-siblings.

Hours after attorneys began questioning prospective jurors for a potentially two-month trial on the validity of Huguette Clark’s will, Manhattan Surrogate’s Court Judge Nora Anderson stopped the selection process until she decides whether or not to include the arts foundation attorneys.

It’s unclear how soon she might rule.

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Follow Jennifer Peltz at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz

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