Reclusive heiress Huguette Clark died Tuesday morning at age 104, but the ugly legal fight over her $500 million fortune lives on.
Clark, who inherited riches amassed by her father in Montana's mining industry at the turn of last century, had spent the past 20 years living in a New York Hospital room under an assumed name to avoid publicity.
Her attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock issued this statement: "Madame Clark's passing is a sad event for everyone who loved and respected her over the years. She died as she wanted, with dignity and privacy. We intend to continue to respect her wishes for privacy."
The fragile 104-year-old had largely shunned visitors and had for years left decisions touching leaving every facet of her life in the hands of her longtime lawyer -- from bidding on vintage dolls at auction on her behalf to settling disputes among her personal nurses.
"Ms. Clark has always been a strong-willed individual with firm convictions about how her life should be led and who should be privy to her affairs," said in an affidavit filed in court last year from Bock, who finds himself embroiled in a legal dispute over the alleged mismanagement of Clark's fortune.
Though Clark had a 42-room apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and sprawling estates in California and Connecticut, she has lived quietly for decades in a hospital room, most recently at Beth Israel Medical Center. The legal wrangling over her fortune, meanwhile, has exposed snippets of her once shrouded life.
In a state court, two of Clark's nieces and a nephew last September had asked a Manhattan judge to appoint a guardian to oversee her personal and financial affairs. The petition also asked the court to bar Bock and certified public accountant Irving Kamsler from visiting or representing Clark.
In federal lawsuit, two former trust officers accused Citibank of costing the heiress up to $80 million by failing to properly invest her money. The bank has denied the allegation in the case, which is unrelated to the guardian petition filed by the relatives.
The former trust officers had met with Manhattan prosecutors, who are investigating whether Bock and Kamsler mishandled Clark's finances. No criminal charges have been filed.
Sources rold ABC News last last year that prosecutors will likely look into the sale by Bock and Kamsler of Clark's Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting valued at $23 million.
In their Federal wrongful termination suit, former Citibank trust officers John Cullen and Veronica Juliano claim that more than 70 years after a $3 million fund was established for Clark, the value of the fund remained the essentially the same because it was never invested in stocks.
The fund was set up by the heiress's mother, Anna, one year after the death of Clark's father, U.S. Sen. William Clark of Montana, who died in 1925 at age 86 and was one of the richest men in the nation. Established with $3 million during one of America's periodic stock market booms, the money was invested entirely in bonds for decades, according to the lawsuit. Cullen said he was fired by Citibank after insisting that the bank look into the matter.