Hospital’s Fundraising Campaign Causes Donor to Cut Relatives From Will

non profit fundraisingThe accountability of the professionals in philanthropy is front and center in the case of the Estate of Hugette Clark (NYTimes May 30, 2013).

Mrs. Clark died in 2011 at age 104 with an estate of $300 million. Her relatives (including 20 grand half-nieces and grand half-nephews) have sued to overturn her 2005 will which cut out her relatives.

Mrs. Clark lived in New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center for the last 20 years of her life with shades drawn and doors closed. She played with dolls and watched cartoons (particularly the Smufs). The relatives allege that within months of her moving in, the hospital went after her with an all out fundraising campaign that involved the CEO, the CEO’s mother, physicians and development officers.

The relatives contend she did not need all the medical care she received and was primarily residing there for fundraising purposes. While living there (in addition to paying to live there) she gave the hospital $4 million and in addition $1 million in the will that the relatives are contesting.

The court appointed public administrator criticized the hospital’s behavior as well as the behavior of Mrs. Clark’s accountant, lawyer, admitting doctor and private nurse- all of whom ended up as beneficiaries in the contested will. The hospital’s position is that Mrs. Clark was smart as a whip and they provided top notch care for her.

The documents produced as part of the upcoming trial offer a real peek into the fundraising including the memos of the development office that detail the visits and efforts to obtain donations. These documents include Mrs. Clark giving the development officer a photographic tour of her dollhouses, taking pictures of each doll’s activity (drinking tea, walking in the garden) and created stories around the dolls. The dolls were Japanese which led the development officer to connect Mrs. Clark at a deeper level with the CEO who was married to a Japanese woman.

Another internal development office memo written seven years after Mrs. Clark was residing at the hospital include comments such as does legal know she is here? My concern is if we raise the issue with them they may push the question of whether she should even be living at the hospital. If we were forced to “evict” her we’d certainly have no hope of support.”

The trial is scheduled for this fall and its outcome will be interesting. To me the case shines the light on the donor/development line and brings into focus the accountability of the related professionals in the journey.


Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,


  1. Matthew Roddy says:

    Well done Patricia!

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