Charitable Giving or Elder Abuse? Uncertainties of a Late Heiress’s Last Years

Charity giving

Admitted in 1991, Mrs. Clark ended up staying until her death, giving the hospital at least $4 million in donations, not counting millions more she paid just to live there and a $1 million bequest in her final, contested will, according to court papers.

Charitable giving in the last years of the über wealthy tend to come under fire from family members and the public, oftentimes questioning the donor’s aging mind and capacity to make sound decisions regarding their finances. Such is the case of the late Huguette Clark, her immense inheritance, and the hospital that may (or may not) have influenced her generous donations. Ms. Clark was extremely wealthy, and during the last twenty years of her life the reclusive copper heiress spent an absolutely excessive amount of time in the hospital. She had few afflictions other than, well, loneliness.

After her passing, it did not take long for questions to arise regarding how the hospital pushed to care for a not-so-infirm woman for so long and just so happened to be receiving sizable donations from her all the while. What may be worse is that the allegations may be true and there are some interesting, perhaps damning, tidbits.

This scenario and the questions it raises were reported recently in The New York Times in an article titled “Hospital Caring for an Heiress Pressed Her to Give Lavishly.” The article chronicles the last lonely years on Ms. Clark’s life.

Remember, she was only all-too-human. If manipulation was afoot, what should be done about it and, closer to home, how can such manipulation be prevented in our own estates or those of our already senior loved ones?

But then there is the reverse side of the coin: what if it was not manipulation at all? Then Ms. Clark’s wishes and last charitable actions are being drawn through the mud for not having been fully articulated.

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Reference: The New York Times (May 29, 2013) “Hospital Caring for an Heiress Pressed Her to Give Lavishly