Just two days before he took his own life, accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein executed a new estate plan. It provides a glimpse at what assets might be available to his alleged victims but also keeps many things about his finances a secret.
What Might Victims Receive?
One of the important things an estate plan does is ensure that the deceased person’s creditors are paid off. In Epstein’s case, there is a big question mark here because all of his alleged victims may have a chance to claim damages against his estate.
If claims by victims are successful, there appears to be a significant amount of money to go around. Court documents filed in the U.S. Virgin Islands reveal that Epstein left behind an estate worth over $577 million.
Since court documents, including probate documents, are public records, they are open to public inspection. Epstein’s reveal he had $56.5 million in cash; $14.3 million in fixed-income investments; $112.6 million in equities; and $194.9 million in hedge funds and private equity investments at his time of death.
He also owns a lot of valuable property through holding companies:
- A $55.9 million townhouse in Manhattan,
- A $17.2 million ranch in New Mexico,
- His Palm Beach mansion, worth $12.3 million,
- Several units in a building in Paris worth $8.67 million,
- Great St. James Island, which is worth more than $22.49 million, and
- The $63.87 million Little St. James Island.
He also owned “Aviation Assets, Automobiles and Boats” worth $18.5 million and “Fine Arts, Antiques, Collectibles, Valuables & Other Personal Property” that are “subject to appraisal/valuation.”
It is unclear what, if any, of these assets will go to his alleged victims. Sorting that out will likely take years. Beyond compensating victims and paying off other debts, what happens to Epstein’s fortune remains a mystery.
Trusts Shield Details From The Public
While we know what assets Epstein owned at the time of his death, we know very little about what he wanted to be done with those assets after his death. Epstein’s will is a classic pour-over will that pours all of his assets into a trust at the time of death.
After all of his debts have been paid, Epstein’s will says that all of his assets are to be distributed to the acting trustees of “The 1953 Trust.” Trust documents are not public documents, so unless someone leaks trust documents to the press or comes forward to identify themselves as a trustee, we will never know the recipients of Epstein’s fortune.
This is frustrating considering the awful crimes he allegedly committed, but it is also a bit reassuring. One of the main reasons people use trusts to do estate planning is because they provide a shield from public scrutiny.
If the law is strong enough to protect the privacy of Epstein, who reporters would pay a fortune to know more about, it is certainly strong enough to protect the rest of us, who have fewer resources and less sinister histories.