How Litigation Unfolded for Brooke Astor’s Multi-Million Dollar Estate

How Litigation Unfolded for Brooke Astor’s Multi-Million Dollar Estate

Multi-millionaire Brooke Astor lived to the age of 105 and left the majority of her estate to her only son, Anthony Marshall.  Upon his death, whatever remained would go to charities.

Forbes magazine reported that her estate’s value was close to $200 million. A series of complicated legal battles ensued after her death, including the criminal prosecution and conviction of her son and his attorney. Their undue influence in getting her to sign codicils led to grand larceny, fraud and other criminal charges. Marshall’s own son testified against Marshall in the criminal trial.

The initial reason for codicils were so Marshall could will the remaining fortune to his choice of heirs or beneficiaries instead of having it go to charities when he died.

Complicated factors tied up the estate after Brooke’s 2007 death and the estate was not settled until March of 2012. These factors included:

  • A series of codicils to the 2002 will (codicils signed by Brooke when suffering from dementia)
  • Eight wills and codicils beginning from 1997 for the court to review
  • Dozens of charities involved (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller University and the United Nations to name a few)
  • Grandchildren and great-grandchildren who stood to inherit from the estate
  • Criminal prosecution of the main heir to the estate, Brooke’s only son

The court ruled that the 2002 will without the codicils was valid. Under this will, Marshall stood to inherit real estate that sold for $28.5 million, $5.3 million in cash and seven percent interest per year on a $60 million trust fund for the rest of his life, and even more if he lived four and half years past the age of 87. His total inheritance is estimated at around $70 million. However, after legal battles, criminal conviction and legal expenses, he stood to receive $3 million.

Working with a reputable and honest Florida estate planning lawyer can help you avoid the pitfalls of an unfortunate case like this one.