Did Jeffery Epstein try to thwart justice from beyond the grave? Last week all criminal charges were dropped against accused child trafficker and rapist Jeffery Epstein. His deliberate death moots the criminal prosecution against him. You cannot convict a dead man. In a last-ditch effort, Epstein’s final legal move was to put his wealth into a trust, perhaps to thumb his nose at the system and his victims from his money.
There are many types of trusts, with different goals and purposes, but they are similar at their core. A trust is a three-party legal and financial arrangement where one party (the trustor) gives a second party (the trustee) the ability to hold assets or property for a third party (the beneficiary). In Epstein’s case as the trustor, he put his wealth in the trust managed by a trustee. As trusts are traditionally confidential, we do not know who Epstein’s beneficiaries are.
Despite Epstein’s death and his trust, his victims deserve closure, compensation, and Justice. Epstein’s accusers can still pursue civil cases against the estate. One way to get to the truth and help Epstein’s victims is for a civil case to bust the trust.
We don’t do criminal law at Mendes Weed, LLP, but we know a lot about estates and trusts. Especially about how to protect them. This gives us insight into how to go about breaking them.
HIDING WEALTH IN PLAIN SIGHT
According to the New York Times, Epstein’s estate was worth approximately $500 million when he committed suicide, so there are substantial assets to pay to victims. The first look at his assets came from his previous bail hearing in 2007. This gives us an idea of what is in the trust.
Epstein’s estate was estimated to be worth $577.6 million, including about $56.5 million in cash. He also had aviation assets, automobiles, and boats worth $18.5 million, a mansion in New York City worth nearly $56 million, an $8.6 million Paris apartment, a $17.2 million New Mexico Ranch, a $12.3 million home in Palm Beach, Florida, and a private island and other holdings in the U.S. Virgin Islands with an estimated worth of $86.3 million, according to the court document. Epstein’s estate also includes $195 million in hedge funds and private equity investments, $14.3 million in fixed-income investments, and $112.6 million in equities, according to the document.
THE TRUSTEES HOLD THE KEYS
An upside to a trust is that it is a legal structure, with definitions, itemized contents, and Trustees. These Trustees are responsible for the administration of the trust. This put all of Epstein’s wealth in one place, well documented, and let the world know where it is and who is watching it. The Trustees are empowered to negotiate, defend, or settle any claims against the Trust to pay his past, prior, and current civil liabilities. While the executors of his will have been named as Darren Indyke and David Kahn, the details of Epstein’s trust, including trustees, are unknown.
Many accusers are coming forward with civil lawsuits against the estate (For more information on estate/trust litigation, click here). If Epstein is found liable for his crimes in court, the trust can be contested. If a trust contest is successful, the court can overturn some or all of the trust’s provisions.
We don’t know what assets, if any, were hidden overseas. Although some assets may have been hidden by Epstein, the real properties located in the U.S. can be easily found and accounted for as part of his estate. (For more information on the disclosure of foreign assets, click here).
If lawyers for Epstein’s victims can show the wealth was put in the trust to hinder, defraud or delay creditors, they can have the terms of the trust changed or voided. Though his death has stolen any chance of conviction, distributing his wealth to his victims is as close as they will come to justice and closure for what they suffered.
Christina Weed is a Partner at Mendes Weed, LLC who practices Estate, Probate, and Tax Law. She is based in Walnut Creek and tries cases all over the Bay Area. Christina has been designated a Certified Specialist in Taxation by the State Bar of California.