NEW YORK — A judge on Thursday rejected the request of Huguette Clark's relatives to appoint a guardian for the 104-year-old heiress, saying their claim relies on hearsay. The judge left her affairs in the hands of an attorney and accountant who are being investigated by the district attorney.
Without a hearing, Judge Laura Visitación-Lewis of New York County Supreme Court ruled that the relatives' petition was "insufficient in its hearsay, conclusory and speculative assertions" on the capacity of Clark to handle her affairs.
A parallel criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney continues into the handling of Clark's wealth, estimated at $500 million.
Huguette ("u-GET") Marcelle Clark is the last surviving child of Sen. William Andrews Clark of Montana (1839-1925), who in his time was described by The New York Times as either the first or second richest American. His daughter has lived as a recluse for decades, leaving unoccupied her three luxurious homes in California, Connecticut and New York City. Clark has lived in New York hospitals for the past 22 years.
After a series of articles on msnbc.com, the Manhattan district attorney's Elder Abuse Unit began looking at transactions in her bank accounts, as well as the sale of her Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting for $23.5 million.
The three relatives who filed the petition are half-nieces and nephews of Clark's, through her father's first marriage. Their grandfather was Clark's father. Financial consultant Ian C. Devine and marketing executive Carla Hall Friedman, both of New York City, and author and artist Karine Albert McCall, of Washington, D.C., say they represent three branches of of the family, descending from three of Sen. Clark's children.
The three went to court last Friday in New York City, asking that a guardian and a financial institution be appointed to protect her from potential financial abuse by Clark's attorney, Wallace "Wally" Bock, as well as her accountant, Irving H. Kamsler, who is a registered sex offender.
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Huguette Clark's 'valued privacy'
The relatives said Bock and Kamsler have blocked family from visiting her and accused them of exercising undue influence on her. They cited the accountant's guilty plea to a felony, and the attorney's solicitation of a $1.5 million gift from Clark to a West Bank community where his family lives.
The relatives asked the court to bar Bock, 78, and Kamsler, 63, from visiting Clark, from presenting or sending her any documents to sign, from selling any of her property, or signing any contracts on her behalf. They also requested that a financial institution be appointed to manage her finances and that the court appoint an evaluator, who would visit Clark and give an opinion to the court on her competency to handle her affairs.
The judge on Thursday waived those requests in her one-sentence order. She also wrote that the petition had a technical problem, not following all the notice requirements of the law.
After the ruling, Bock's attorney, Robert J. Anello, released a statement: "I am grateful the judge took the time to parse through the issue and Mr. Bock hopes that at this juncture Ms. Clark now be allowed to maintain her valued privacy."
Kamsler's attorney, Elizabeth Crotty, also released a statement: "For years, Mr. Kamsler has maintained a professional relationship with Ms. Clark as her accountant. Despite claims by her distant relatives, the judge's decision speaks for itself. Going forward one can only hope that they will respect Ms. Clark's wishes which includes her privacy."
Pair accused of 'taking advantage' of heiress
The Clark relatives expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling.
"We remain concerned about the safety and well-being of our great aunt," they said in a statement released by their attorney Thomas D. Goldberg, "and we are disappointed that the court did not see fit to appoint an unbiased, independent evaluator to examine her circumstances, particularly in light of the numerous reports that raise serious questions about whether professionals, who are reported to be subjects of an ongoing criminal investigation, are taking advantage of her while at the same time they assert that they are honoring her wishes by keeping her isolated from her family.
"We will continue to cooperate with the investigation of the Elder Abuse Unit of the office of the district attorney and we will do what we can to try to ensure that she is safe and that her needs and wishes are met."
Bock replied to the petition by calling the three "nothing more than officious interlopers, all three of whom are virtual strangers to Ms. Clark, and with whom Ms. Clark has knowingly and assiduously avoided contact for decades."
All of msnbc.com's reports and the TODAY Show videos on Huguette Clark are gathered at clark.msnbc.com.
Part one of the investigative report: At 104, mysterious heiress is alone now
Part two: Who is watching Huguette's millions?
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