Angela Renee Sykes, 43, on Wednesday entered what is called an Alford plea to the charge, under which she didn't admit guilt but acknowledged that evidence would likely lead to her conviction, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
Prosecutors say Sykes took more than $1 million worth of property between 2001 and 2005, when she worked as a nurse caring for Gardner's older sister, Myra Pearce. Pearce, Gardner's closest living relative, inherited the estate after Gardner died in 1990.
Pearce had suffered from Alzheimer's and was declared incompetent in 2000. She died in April 2005.
Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Henry Frye Jr. suspended Sykes' sentence of six to eight months, but demanded that she help recover items she took from Gardner's estate. The actress, a North Carolina native, appeared in dozens of movies from the early 1940s to the mid-1980s.
Her property included mementos from her marriages to actor Mickey Rooney, bandleader Artie Shaw and Sinatra.
Sykes maintains that she is entitled to the items.