Jury choice set to resume in NY heiress will trial

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Associated Press

Posted on September 20, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 20 at 7:36 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A dispute over the estate of a hospital-dwelling heiress to a Gilded Age fortune is back on course for jury selection, though the judge overseeing the case left open the possibility Friday that a settlement could be reached before trial.

Manhattan Surrogate's Court Judge Nora Anderson said in a ruling that a deal "may be in negotiation" but for now, jury selection is scheduled to resume Tuesday in the case surrounding the will of Huguette Clark, whose U.S. senator father made a fortune in Montana copper mining and founded Las Vegas.

The childless Clark died in 2011, at age 104. She'd elected to spend 20 years in a Manhattan hospital, even when it wasn't medically necessary, instead of her Fifth Avenue apartment or estates in Santa Barbara, Calif., and New Canaan, Conn.

Distant relatives are challenging her April 2005 will. It cut them out, six weeks after another version of her will left them most of her estimated $300 million.

The later will benefited a nurse, a goddaughter, a hospital and others. It called for creating a foundation to turn Clark's Santa Barbara mansion into a museum.

Jury selection started Thursday, then soon stopped to await a decision on whether the foundation's lawyers could participate in the case.

In her ruling Friday, Anderson said no, noting that the foundation is a product of the disputed will itself.

Foundation leaders were disappointed in the decision and likely to appeal it, lawyer Mark Haranzo said.

Several other lawyers involved in the case didn't immediately return calls.

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Follow Jennifer Peltz at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz

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