Celebrity estate planning complications and feuds are often used to illustrate basic planning principles or common problems. Perhaps none of those examples are as well-known, especially for New Yorkers, as the sad case of the estate of Brooke Astor. The legendary socialite and philanthropist died several years ago. Since her passing, a wide-range of claims were made regarding the distribution of her assets and criminal activity on the part of those responsible for her care and affairs in the later years of her life.
Astor reportedly suffered from Alzheimer’s at the end of her life–an affliction that similarly affects many New York seniors. Unfortunately, also like many others, it seems that her condition was abused by the very people who were supposed to look-out for her.
Astor’s son, Brooke Marshall, was criminally charged with exploiting his mother to funnel more money to himself. Marshall was ultimately convicted, along with a co-defendant, of illegally giving himself a $2 million “raise” to administer the estate. Claims also suggested that an amendment to Astor’s will in 2004 included a forged signature.
The criminal conviction actually came more than three years ago, when the pair was sentenced to serve between one to three years in jail for their conduct. However, they have yet to serve a day as various appeals are worked out.
As reported by the New York Post, Marshall was in court again a week ago. The Manhattan Supreme Court justice handling the matter allowed Marshall to remain out on bail while his final appeal request to the highest court in the state–New York’s Court of Appeals–is considered. If the Court decides not to hear the case, then Marshall and his co-defendant will be completely out of options and likely report to jail in mid-June. That would mark the end to the most drawn-out, contentious, high-profile inheritance controversy in recent New York memory.
Seamless Estate Planning
While most may not have the wealth of Brooke Astor, the other dynamics of the situation are the same for many: declining health, disagreement among children about inheritance amounts, pressure from in-laws, last-minute will changes, and more.
The general lessons are myriad. Be sure to seek out the help of legal professionals with a reputation for honest dealing and whom you trust. Be forthright about various family dynamics that may come into play in the aftermath, even if it involves difficult conversations about family members. Do not delay, as one’s health is never certain.
By following these basic principles, one can be in the best position to ensure an inheritance is handled efficiently and exactly as one wishes