Lotsa luck with that one, Jeffrey. Jeffrey Epstein’s will has been picked up by several media outlets this morning, showing the predatory pedophile’s vast wealth and possibly his last-ditch effort to block his victims from justice. The will signed just two days before Epstein checked out transferred all of his assets into a trust, which will complicate attempts by plaintiffs to sue the estate for damages.
NBC News reports that Epstein stiffed his brother Mark, but that’s not entirely clear. For that matter, neither is the full value of the estate:
.@NBCNews has obtained the will that was signed by Jeffrey Epstein shortly before his death.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 20, 2019
The New York Post got it first and has a copy embedded in its report.
The 66-year-old former hedge-fund manager was worth $577,672,654, or about $18 million more than he previously stated in court papers while futilely trying to land bail on federal sex-trafficking charges, the new documents show.
He put all of his holdings in a trust, called The 1953 Trust, after the year he was born.
“It’s done that way for privacy reasons,’’ a city estate lawyer told The Post. “It’s pretty boiler-plate. It’s what we call a ‘pour-over will,’ which means everything pours over to a trust. …
There are no details on the trust’s beneficiaries. The court papers note that Epstein’s only potential heir was his brother, Mark Epstein. But the will adds that Mark only had a claim to his brother’s extensive holdings if Jeffrey hadn’t left behind the document.
The details of the The 1953 Trust, the instrument created by Epstein and his attorneys last week, have not been made fully public. That’s by design; a private trust does not require the same level of public exposure that a normal estate does in probate. Mark Epstein is specifically named as heir in the new will but without any direct bequests. However, he might be one of the trustees of the estate, which would give him broad discretion over the use of its assets; he could also be a beneficiary, which would have access to assets in the manner set up by the trust. Plus, as the New York Times reports, the trustees are in position to benefit if a court strikes down the trust:
The document, first reported on by the New York Post, stipulates that if The 1953 Trust is found to be ineffective, his estate should be divided among its trustees, who are not named in the will.
Jeffrey probably knew better than to cut his brother fully out of the estate, which would open up a legal challenge that could tie the trust up for years. Mark is likely to be one of the trustees or at least one of the beneficiaries of the trust, if for no other reason than to incentivize his brother not to challenge the trust.
The main reason for creating trusts to receive estates are to avoid taxes, but Epstein likely had other issues on his mind. Rewriting everything to establish this trust just before his suicide seems almost certainly intended to defend against other legal challenges from the victims of his serial predation. Good luck with that, the NYT’s legal analyst says:
While Mr. Epstein bequeathed his entire fortune to The 1953 Trust and its unidentified trustees, the future of his wealth remains in limbo.
One of Mr. Epstein’s accusers, Jennifer Araoz, sued his estate last week, and his wealth may not be able to pass into the trust until that suit is resolved. More lawsuits also are expected.
“The assets of the will cannot be distributed to any beneficiaries, including a trust, until any creditors, including victims who are owed damages or restitution, have collected what they are owed,” Mr. Goodman said. “Who determines what they are owed is a court of law.”
Trusts are not magical safe zones, although they’re as close as Epstein was likely to manage. It might complicate matters for these plaintiffs, but no court is going to rule Epstein’s estate off limits for damages and restitution merely because he created a trust in prison. The trustees of the estate may end up working for a plaintiff class for the next few decades, and that’s probably a best-case scenario.