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Astor Estate Settlement Reached

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The grave of Brooke Astor in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, NY by Anthony 22 at Wikimedia Commons

The grave of Brooke Astor in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, NY by Anthony 22 at Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times reports that a settlement has been reached in the years-long dispute over Brooke Astor’s $100 million fortune.

The socialite and philanthropist’s only son, Anthony D. Marshall, 87, who was convicted of stealing from his mother, will “only” receive $14.5 million after a $12.3 million deduction by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for restitution costs; he also will have no say in to whom or how charitable bequests are handed out.

Marshall is currently appealing his criminal conviction, but the settlement will stay in place regardless of the outcome, according to the office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

The estate will grant $30 million to begin the Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education, and other bequests are to me be made to various New York institutions including Central Park, the New York Public Library, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The dispute over the estate arose because Astor, who suffered from dementia later in life, had several different versions of her will. The most recent version was from 2002 but was amended three times over the course of the following two years; the later versions of the will handed over more of her money and control of bequests to Marshall.

According to Reuters, Marshall and Astor’s former attorney Francis X. Morrissey was accused of forging her signature on the third amendment, which would have left the entire estate to Marshall. The settlement abides by the 2002 version, pre-amendments, however.

The battle has been closely watched by New Yorkers as it played out like a real life soap opera; Astor reportedly did not much care for Marshall’s wife, Charlene, and some of Astor’s friends even testified at Marshall’s criminal trial. Allegations of elder abuse also swirled around the family, one of the most well-known in New York social circles. Vanity Fair has a great write-up about this more “social” side of the estate battle, if you’re interested.

And so, with the settlement, it seems that the estate battle is over — and once again even those of us without multi-million dollar fortunes are reminded of the importance of having a valid will well before potential health problems may set in. And since we never know when they might, now is as good a time as any to get prepared.

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April 4th, 2012 at 10:43 am