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Trial set to begin for heiress Huguette Clark's disputed estate

One of the benefits of thorough estate planning is that it can help people deal with their grief after losing a loved one. Death is never a pleasant experience, but seeing that an estate is executed according to a person's final wishes without a hitch can help the healing process move forward. The individuals responsible for overseeing the administration -- executors, trustees or fiduciaries -- play a role in making sure that a will executed properly.

In 2011, famed heiress Huguette Clark passed away at the age of 104. According to Clark's will, her $300 million estate, passed down from her copper magnate father, was split between charities, close relatives and close associates. She also stated that distant relatives would not be included as beneficiaries.

The woman was known for staying clear of the public eye, but the events following her death have created a media sensation. Nineteen of Clark's relatives, most of whom she had never met, issued claims for a portion of her estate. Of course, this created an intense dispute that is about to go to trial.

Clark's accountant and attorney are listed among the beneficiaries in the will. These two individuals could have a role in managing her finances and managing her estate plan. The relatives who have contested the will say that both individuals violated their positions of trust and took advantage of Clark, who they claim was mentally incompetent. If these accusations hole true, both could be in violation of their fiduciary duties to protect Clark's interests.

Reports from NBC News indicate that settlement talks are underway. If a settlement is approved, the 19 relatives could get a portion of the state, which would reduce the share provided to other beneficiaries listed in the will.

Interestingly enough, there is some discussion about the attorney and accountant relinquishing their share of the estate to testify in support of Clark's will in court. This elevates the importance of installing a trustworthy person as an executor or fiduciary.

Source: NBC News, "Kin of heiress Huguette Clark in talks to receive share of $300 million estate," Bill Dedman, Aug. 16, 2013

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