In May 2012, the $185 million estate of New York socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor was finally closed. The Court approved a settlement ending a civil case between Astor’s descendants and the charities she supported in her will.
Meanwhile, Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, 85, was convicted of 14 of 16 counts of stealing from her as she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, including persuading her to change her will for his benefit and using her power of attorney to give himself a $1 million retroactive raise. Marshall apparently looted his mother’s estate so he could leave it to his wife, Charlene, who Astor despised. At last report, Marshall was still trying to stay out of jail.
The settlement was based on a 2002 Will and ignored later codicils that would have given more money to Marshall and less to charity. Under the settlement, Marshall will only receive $14.3 million.
“Brooke Astor was at the center of New York philanthropy for nearly half a century,” New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “Her legendary generosity and charisma touched New Yorkers of all backgrounds. I am pleased that my office led the way to an agreement that honors Mrs. Astor’s final wishes and benefits New York’s landmark educational and cultural institutions.”
The settlement includes a new $30 million Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education, millions for Central and Prospect Parks, the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Historic Hudson Valley, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Museum, Rockefeller University, the Morgan Library & Museum, New York University, and city playgrounds.
This is a sad story and a sad ending for a woman suffering from dementia and neglect who had long been a society and charity icon.
There is a lesson for all of us here: be sure the person you name to handle your affairs is someone you can trust. And remember, when you use a Will, the events that unfold in your family when a loved one passes, such as this, are public; however, when you use a Trust, your privacy is protected during the Trust Administration. This way no possible dirty laundry is hung out for all to see.
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