The will that Jeffrey Epstein signed just two days before his jailhouse suicide puts more than $577 million in assets into a trust fund that could make it more difficult for his dozens of accusers to collect damages.
Estate lawyers and other experts say prying open the trust and dividing up the financier’s riches is not going to be easy and could take years.
“This is the last act of Epstein’s manipulation of the system, even in death,” said attorney Jennifer Freeman, who represents child sex abuse victims.
Epstein, 66, killed himself Aug. 10 in New York while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges. The discovery of the will with its newly created 1953 Trust, named after the year of his birth, instantly raised suspicions he did it to hide money from the many women who say he sexually abused them when they were teenagers.
By putting his fortune in a trust, he shrouded from public view the identities of the beneficiaries, whether they be individuals, organizations or other entities. For the women trying to collect from his estate, the first order of business will be persuading a judge to pierce that veil and release the details.
From there, the women will have to follow the course they would have had to pursue even if Epstein had not created a trust: convince the judge that they are entitled to compensation as victims of sex crimes. The judge would have to decide how much they should get and whether to reduce the amounts given to Epstein’s named beneficiaries, who would also be given their say in court.
The assets listed in the 20-page document include more than $56 million in cash; properties in New York, Florida, Paris, New Mexico and the Virgin Islands; $18.5 million in vehicles, aircraft and boats; and art and collectibles that will have to be appraised.
Epstein’s only known relative is a brother, Mark Epstein, who has not responded to requests for comment. It is unclear whether he was named a beneficiary.
One other possibility is that the U.S. government will seek civil forfeiture of Epstein’s properties or other assets on the grounds that they were used for criminal purposes. Government lawyers would have to produce strong evidence of that at a trial-like proceeding. READ MORE: