Recently you may have heard about the conviction of Anthony Marshall, son of New York philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor. Tony Marshall, the only son of Brooke Astor, was convicted of 14 counts of grand theft and larceny for allegedly stealing millions from his mother’s estate while she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The lawyer who prepared an amendment to Mrs. Astor’s will was also convicted on charges of fraud and conspiracy and one count of forging Mrs. Astor’s name to the amendment which changed the distribution of her estate. The amendment was made when Mrs. Astor was almost 102.
Now controversy will shift to what will be done with Mrs. Astor’s estimated $180 million dollar estate. Some people speculate that the conviction might cost the grandsons of Mrs. Astor, Phillip Marshall and his twin brother Alexander, about $10 million each, a fact apparently not known to Phillip when he started a guardianship proceeding in 2006. Phillip petitioned the Probate Court to appoint a guardian for his grandmother, claiming that his father Tony was allowing her to live in squalor, telling her she had no money left, all the while taking millions from her estate. The guardianship proceeding caused prosecutors to begin investigating Tony Marshall which then led to the criminal charges. Phillip Marshall has said he never knew about the inheritance for he and his brother from his father’s estate and that it was “not about the money. He wanted to protect his grandmother.”
Hopefully what this case has done in the real world is raise the public’s awareness about elder abuse. Elder abuse affects about 2 million Americans over the age of 65. It can be physical abuse such as using force or causing physical injury or it can be neglect. Elder abuse can also be financial abuse where someone wrongfully takes or uses an elder’s money or other assets. It can also involve, as in the Astor case, using undue influence of forgery to cause an elder to change a will or a trust. It sounds from the Astor trial testimony that the elder abuse there was both types. If we can help with an elder issue such as one discussed here or any other estate planning issue, call us at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation.