Irishwoman left $8m by NY heiress settles row

An Irishwoman left $8m (€6.2m) by a New York heiress has settled a bitter legal dispute with the family of the dead woman.

Elsie McCarthy, originally from Schull in West Cork, was left the millions by Robin Archer Moles, who died in 2009.

Ms McCarthy had been the multimillionaire’s carer for over 20 years.

Surviving members of Ms Moles’s family objected to the will, claiming it was signed under duress and that the 70-year-old, who suffered from alcoholism, was not of sound mind.

Ms Moles’s nephew Christopher Ljungkull — the main beneficiary of his aunt’s original 40-year-old will — launched a legal action to try and stop Ms McCarthy receiving the money. It is not known just exactly how much of the $8m fortune Ms McCarthy received as part of the settlement.

Mr Ljungkull’s lawyer, Jeff Ross, confirmed the dispute had been settled but would give no further details.

Ms McCarthy could not be contacted for comment but she has spoken before of her relationship with Ms Moles and revealed other details of her life in court documents.

The 68-year-old said she worked as a carer for Ms Moles — on a salary of $40,000 (€30,900) a year — for 20 years and that she loved her “like a mother”.

“I worked 24/7, 12 months of the year. We travelled all over the world together — Ireland, Paris, London, Atlantic City,” she told the New York Daily News.

The deceased woman stayed with Ms McCarthy’s family when they visited Ireland. In response to allegations contained in court papers, Ms McCarthy said: “I’m not shanty Irish. I come from royalty.”

An appeals court in New York, overturning a lower court decision, ruled exactly a year ago that Mr Ljungkull had a case and ordered a full trial to hear his claims.

That trial will not now happen as, after months of legal wrangling, the two sides came to an agreement.

The will, Mr Ljungkull claimed, was “not validly executed... and... was the product of fraud or undue influence exercised by Elsie McCarthy”.

He claimed Ms Moles — whose grandfather founded a food firm later taken over to become Archer Daniels Midland, now a $81bn Fortune 500 company — was frail, not of sound mind, and was unduly influenced by her long time companion when she signed the updated will in 2007.

She lived in New York’s Upper West Side and was well known in society circles as a theatrical producer, though in later years she had become something of a recluse.

Her will was witnessed by 75-year-old Niels Lauerson, former gynaecologist to the stars who once spent time in prison for insurance fraud.

One of his employees was also a witness while the ex-doctor’s own lawyer drew up the will. Lauerson was convicted a decade ago of profiting from lying to insurance firms. On his release from jail, he claims to have been employed by Ms Moles to feed her cats and walk the dogs.

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