Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein signed a will just two days before his suicide, placing more than $577 million in assets into a trust fund that could potentially make it harder for his accusers to collect damages.
Regina Kiperman, a probate and estate planning lawyer from New York, told The Epoch Times that opening the trust would be difficult and wouldn’t make it easier for alleged victims of Epstein to collect financial damages.
“The will has to still be admitted to probate and the assets have to be transferred to the Trust. I highly doubt that the trust was funded prior to Epstein’s death,” she said in an Aug. 22 email.
“If the trust is not yet funded, then there is an opportunity for the estate to pay out claims made against the estate. He did not necessarily fully protect his assets, just created an additional barrier for people to overcome.”
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office concluded on Aug. 16 that Epstein died by suicide from hanging. Epstein’s lawyers say they are “not satisfied” with the results and have vowed to conduct their own investigation into his death.
The discovery of the will, with its newly created 1953 Trust—named after the year of his birth—instantly raised suspicion that he acted to hide money from the women who have accused him of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers.
Placing money in a trust hides from public view the identities of the beneficiaries, whether they be individuals, organizations, or other entities. For the alleged victims of Epstein trying to collect money from his estate, their first move would be persuading a judge to pierce that veil and release the details.
From there, the women would have to follow the same course as they would if Epstein hadn’t created a trust: Convince a judge that they’re 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.
“We never know when our time comes. Epstein’s trust creation, albeit tragic, is illustrative of the benefits of creditor protection certain trusts provide,” Irina Yadgarova, a New York attorney who deals with trusts and estates, told The Epoch Times via email.
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.
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.
If they were to prevail, they would be able to seize the properties, sell them, and distribute the proceeds to victims.
Lisa Bloom, an attorney who represents several Epstein accusers, told The Associated Press via email that it was “gross negligence” on the part of Epstein’s lawyers and jail personnel to allow him to sign a new will, given that he had apparently attempted suicide a short time before.
One of Epstein’s lawyers, Martin Weinberg, didn’t immediately respond to request for comment from The Epoch Times.
“This new will, signed just two days prior to his death, will add even further wrinkles for those victims seeking monetary settlements for Epstein’s many abuses,” Julie Rendelman, a criminal defense attorney, told The Epoch Times via email.
“Inevitably, there will be questions raised as to his mental competency to change his will days before he ended his life, and weeks after he made an initial suicide attempt,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.