Copper heiress' huge gifts spotlighted in NY court

June 18, 2012 • Business

FILE – This photo provided in 2010 by Barbara Cleary’s Realty Guild shows the estate of Huguette Clark in New Caanan, Conn., which had not been lived in for more than two decades since its owner became ill and ended up a recluse in a New York hospital room before dying at the age of 104. The late copper heiress’ huge gifts to her staff are now in the spotlight in a New York City court fight, and an official handling the estate wants $37 million returned. (AP Photo/File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Her nurse was showered with almost $28 million in gifts, including three Manhattan apartments, two homes elsewhere and a $1.2 million Stradivarius violin. Her doctors’ families received more than $3 million in presents. A night nurse received a salary plus money to cover her children’s school tuition and to help buy two apartments.

Now the court-appointed official overseeing copper heiress Huguette Clark’s estate wants all these gifts — and more — back.

Saying the recipients manipulated the reclusive multimillionaire into lavishing largesse upon them during her long life, public administrator Ethel J. Griffin is trying to reclaim a whopping $37 million for the $400 million estate.

Besides seeking an order for return of those gifts, the administrator asked a court last month to investigate whether a hospital where Clark lived should have to give back a $6 million painting by French pre-Impressionist Edouard Manet and whether the prominent Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington should have to return $250,000.

While clashes over who got what and how during someone’s lifetime crop up in many will fights, the staggering size, two-decade timeframe and uncommon circumstances distinguish the dispute surrounding Clark’s gifts.

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