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Huguette Clark’s Santa Barbara Oceanfront Estate Transferred to Bellosguardo Foundation

After apparent settlement with IRS over unpaid gift taxes, late heiress’ seldom-used mansion is one step closer to supporting local arts

Bellosguardo, seen through the chain-link fence on the Santa Barbara Cemetery side of the oceanfront property. According to the will and wishes of the late heiress Huguette Clark, the estate  was intended to be the centerpiece of a new local foundation supporting the arts.
Bellosguardo, seen through the chain-link fence on the Santa Barbara Cemetery side of the oceanfront property. According to the will and wishes of the late heiress Huguette Clark, the estate was intended to be the centerpiece of a new local foundation supporting the arts. (Noozhawk file photo)

The Bellosguardo estate overlooking the Santa Barbara waterfront has been officially transferred to the nonprofit arts foundation set up by its former owner, the late heiress Huguette Clark, after being held for several years by the New York County Public Administrator’s Office while probate and tax issues were settled.

The executor’s deed was recorded March 5 and changed the property owner to the Bellosguardo Foundation Inc., according to the Santa Barbara County Assessor’s Office.

When Clark died in 2011 at age 104 with a $300 million fortune, her will was contested in court. The settlement created a New York-based foundation to foster the arts, and gifted the estate at 1407 E. Cabrillo Blvd. to the foundation.

The foundation’s Board of Directors was nominated by former Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. Jeremy Lindaman, Schneider’s then-political consultant, was hired as executive director.

The New York County Public Administrator’s Office was executor of the will and gave money to the foundation — for Lindaman’s salary, among other things — and paid the Bellosguardo estate’s property taxes to Santa Barbara County, according to foundation and county records.

Transferring the Bellosguardo estate to the Bellosguardo Foundation was finalized in court late last year, with a Santa Barbara County probate case, and the executor’s deed was recorded by the county Assessor’s Office last month.

Court documents from Nov. 3, 2017, say Clark’s estate was solvent and that all debts and expenses of the estate had been paid, except closing fees.

The only asset listed in court documents was the Santa Barbara property, and the Bellosguardo Foundation was the beneficiary of 100 percent of the assets.

December court documents in the probate case state the balance of the estate at $45 million, of which none is cash.

Clark’s will, before and after the settlement, instructed executors to create a nonprofit foundation for the purpose of fostering and promoting the arts, with a Board of Directors that served without compensation.

She initially gifted the foundation the Bellosguardo estate in Santa Barbara, all personal property used in connection with the estate, her doll collection and a “pecuniary amount of $4.5 million.” There was no mention of the doll collection or cash assets in the probate court documents, and it is unclear whether those also were transferred to the foundation.

The asset transfer means a settlement was reached with the Internal Revenue Service regarding Clark’s unpaid gift taxes, which Lindaman confirmed in a written statement to the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper. He also said that the negotiated IRS settlement included assets of more than $95 million for the foundation.

No details were available, and Lindaman did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Bellosguardo is a 23½-acre property with an assessed value of $49.7 million as of 2017, according to the Assessor’s Office. The 21,666-square-foot mansion, built in 1936, has nine bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and 13 fireplaces.

Annual property taxes were about $20,000 per year before Clark’s death because of Proposition 13, but when it transferred ownership to the Estate of Huguette M. Clark upon her death, payments jumped dramatically, according to Assessor’s Office records.

The Dec. 7, 2012, payment was $222,100.63, and yearly costs since then have been in the range of $425,000 to $496,758 (the current fiscal year), for the basic 1 percent property tax rate of the assessed value. School bonds and fixed charges add to that cost.

Some nonprofit groups can get property tax exemptions, but it’s unknown whether the Bellosguardo Foundation, which incorporated as a New York-based nonprofit corporation in 2014, is eligible or will pursue it.

State and county criteria for exemptions include that the property owner or organization must operate the property for charitable, hospital, religious or scientific purposes.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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