Donations to Hospital and Allegations of Coercion and Contested Will

The following is a link to an interesting New York Times article dated May 29, 2013, Huguette Clark’s will and estate, and allegations that she was coerced by the hospital where she had been staying for the last 20 years of her lift to donate money and assets to the hospital and to leave the hospital $1 million in her will.  Click here for article.

My initial thoughts, based on the information provided by the article.  The article does refer to information provided in papers that have been filed with the court, and of course we don’t have those papers which presumably do contain significant information that will be admissible as evidence at the scheduled September trial.  Ms. Clark was extremely wealth.  Living in a hospital for the last 20 years of her life certainly is unusual.  However, the article doesn’t indicate that she lacked capacity to make that decision at least early in her 20-year stay.  Ms. Clark had the money to live anywhere that she wanted.  Ms. Clark was in bad shape when she first entered the hospital and they treated her back to health.  Apparently she felt safe and well-cared for in the hospital.

If Ms. Clark’s family members or friends were concerned about her mental capacity and decision making, or if they were concerned that the hospital was unduly influencing her, the article doesn’t indicate that Ms. Clark was ever conserved by her family members or that there was any attempt to conserve her during the 20 year hospital stay.

Ms. Clark did pay for the cost of her stay at the hospital.  The article doesn’t provide information about those costs.  The article indicates that Ms. Clark left $1 million to the hospital in her will, that she had donated to the hospital an additional $4 million during the 20 years, and that her estate was worth $300 million on her death.  The article also indicates or suggests that the hospital did try to get Ms. Clark to donate additional funds to the hospital.  The attorney for the parties who are contesting the will in part stated: “What this is about is not just a will contest, it’s about the accountability of professionals.”

My initial take away based on the information provided in the article (but of course additional information could indicate otherwise): inadequate evidence that Ms. Clark lacked mental capacity, or that she was coerced, and given the amount of her wealth it is arguable that she really wasn’t generous to the hospital but was instead generous to the people and entities who do inherit the majority of her wealth.  Given that Ms. Clark had lived at the hospital for 20 years, it would not have surprised me if she had left more to the hospital.

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