The fate of the iconic Clark Estate in Santa Barbara may rest on the outcome of negotiations going on in New York between dozens of attorneys and the family members of the late heiress who owned the home and grounds.
Heiress Huguette Clark, who died in May 2011, was the daughter of copper tycoon William Clark, and the $100 million Santa Barbara waterfront property is one of several in the family’s $300 million estate.
The 23-acre estate known as “Bellosguardo” has had an uncertain future since Clark’s death, because she left behind two wills, signed six weeks apart. The first left $5 million to her nurses and the rest of the estate to her distant relatives.
But the more recent will wrote relatives out completely, leaving a larger amount to her nurse, and appointing the rest to the Bellosguardo Foundation that would be established to promote and foster the arts and open her home to the public.
Clark’s will could go before a probate judge and jury to decide where the assets go, but is in settlement talks right now.
In a story published Aug. 15, NBC News reporter Bill Dedman stated that a settlement is not certain because negotiations have been contentious and complicated, according to several of the 60 attorneys involved in the case.
Dedman reported that a jury trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 17 in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific, the home is a Santa Barbara landmark, but is not open to the public.
Last year, representatives from the city’s nonprofit, arts and government community gathered on the steps of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to ask the public to support what they believe was Clark’s last wish: that her assets be placed in a foundation that would support the arts.
“The alternative is that all of the assets are sold off to the family, and then the home will probably get put on the market and go to the highest bidder,” Mayor Helene Schneider said at the time, asking members of the public to add their names to an online petition in support of the formation of an arts foundation on the property.
“(Clark) still had a tie to Santa Barbara,” Schneider said.