The tale of 104-year old heiress, Huguette Clark, caught my fancy last week. Not only is this woman’s story rich with history, but it raises an extraordinary number of issues that are relevant to each of us as we deal with critical decisions in life: who to trust, minimizing family squabbling when we are gone, and very real concerns about dwindling capacities and solitude as we age.
Part of the fascination of the strange situation involving Huguette Clark, of course, is her colorful parentage, her remarkable 104 years, the enormous wealth – it is estimated that unoccupied homes alone are worth $200 million – not to mention the mystery that shrouds her whereabouts. The fact that the most recent known photo of her dates to 1930 adds to the exceptional nature of this story, as information coming to light about her attorney and accountant raise the level of intrigue – and concern.
The reporter who has covered this story for msnbc.com, Bill Dedman, has published an update. Apparently, a criminal investigation into the handling of Ms. Clark’s finances is underway.
This is an epic, eerie, and frightening story in its way. I will continue to follow it with interest, while reflecting on the reality that both my parents are now gone, and certainly, there were no issues over mind-boggling assets.
Nonetheless, there were considerable headaches, wrenching decisions, a tangle of paperwork and more. I can’t help but dwell on that from time to time, and I don’t wish any such dramas on my children, ever.
- Regardless of your financial status, have you considered what might happen to you when you’re older and infirm?
- Are you putting off making a will or other arrangements until some (unspecified) time in the future?
- If you’re divorced, did you take care of estate planning in conjunction with the end of your marriage?
- If time has passed, have you updated your instructions as circumstances have evolved?
- Do you discount these issues if you are single, or if you have no children?
- Are you caring for an elder parent, and dealing with the ongoing cost, logistics, and emotional drain that is involved? At home, or elsewhere?
Who among us doesn’t wonder what our future may hold, as we grow older? Will we be taken advantage of, with or without the sort of assets involved in this story? Will we be cared for with some small measure of kindness?
Will we be shut away and forgotten about, despite how we may have raised our children – believing they will care for us in our elder years as we cared for them when they were young?