Attorney and Lawyer Suspended from Administering Heiress's $400M Estate

A New York court has suspended the accountant and attorney who were acting as executors for the huge estate of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark. The court accused the men of violating rules of professional conduct and costing the estate millions.

Clark, the daughter of a former U.S. senator and a copper mining tycoon, left an estate of around $400 million when she died in May 2011 at the age of 104. Clark was a mysterious figure who spent the end of her life voluntarily living in New York City hospitals even though she owned several houses. She had no children, and her nearest relatives were half-nieces and -nephews -- the descendants of her father's first wife and children.

Accountant Irving Kamsler and attorney Wallace Bock both worked for Clark for years, but there have been many allegations of misconduct surrounding them. After a series of reports about Clark's mysterious life by, the Manhattan district attorney's office began a criminal investigation of Kamsler and Bock's handling of Clark's finances. While Clark was still living, a New York court rejected a bid by her relatives to declare her incompetent and restrict Kamsler's access to her. 

Clark's death ignited a dispute over her estate. Her relatives are contesting her will, which left most of her estate to charity, but included a $30 million bequest to her nurse and gifts of $500,000 each to Mr. Kamsler and Mr. Bock. An earlier will -- written only six weeks before the final will -- had left most of Clark's estate to her relatives.

The New York public administrator, which was appointed by a court to be the third executor, filed court papers that accused Kamsler and Bock of "fraud and gross negligence" while working for Clark. According to the public administrator, the men failed to file tax returns for gifts from the estate for several years and then filed gift tax returns that contained significant errors and cost the estate millions of dollars in fines and penalties. On Dec. 23, 2011, finding Kamsler and Bock unfit to serve as executors, the judge suspended both men from administering the estate. The pair could have earned close to $8 million each in executor fees.