Clark Estate
Paul Wellman

Negotiations are underway in New York to decide whether the late Huguette Clark’s hilltop property on East Cabrillo Boulevard will become an arts foundation or be sold.

About 60 lawyers, the New York attorney general, and 19 of Clark’s distant relatives, to whom she specifically left nothing, are debating over her $307 million estate, according to NBC News investigative reporter Bill Dedman.

If sold, who would buy her Cabrillo Boulevard mansion, with magnificent ocean, mountain, and city views, and valued by some at $100 million? The relatives, 14 of whom never met Clark, insist that Bellosguardo, as the property is known, be put on the market, according to Dedman.

There are serious restrictions on the use of the property, due to conditions set by the City of Santa Barbara several years ago in approving historic preservation status. It could not be cut up for condos, for instance, city officials have said.

As of now, its future is cloudy. A jury trial is scheduled for September 17 in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan. If the jury throws out Clark’s will, her entire estate goes to the relatives, Dedman said.

After Clark died in a New York hospital at age 104 in 2011, her relatives, descendants of her father’s first marriage, challenged the will, contending that she was mentally ill and incompetent, and the victim of fraud by her nurse, attorney, and accountant.

In addition to creating the hilltop Santa Barbara arts foundation to house her New York art collection worth millions, the will leaves $15.3 million to her mysterious nurse, Hadassah Peri. Peri also received more than $31 million during Clark’s life, and the estate’s administrator wants it all back, Dedman said. Also, how much of the $15.3 million would Peri give up as part of the settlement?

“How much would satisfy the family?” Dedman writes. “After asking for 75 percent of the estate at first, the family has lowered its negotiating position to 60 percent. The attorney general has proposed this week that that the family receive about $41 million, or less than a quarter of the estate.” The attorney general is siding with allowing the arts foundation to have the Santa Barbara property.

Dedman, along with Paul Clark Newell Jr., are authors of Empty Mansions, the story of Clark’s bizarre life, due to be published by Ballantine Books next month.

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