Posts Tagged ‘Financial’

Brooke Astor’s son found guilty

The jury verdict is in for one of the most intriguing will contest cases ever.  The son of the late New York philanthropist and millionaire, Brooke Astor, had been charged with 16 counts related to fraud, larceny, forgery, and more, stemming from changes to her will and related (alleged) wrongdoing.  Here are my prior blog articles on the case . Well maybe you can remove the word “alleged”.  The jury convicted Anthony Marshall and his co-defendant, lawyer Francis X. Morrissey, Jr.  Marshall, age 85, faces up to 25 years in jail based on the guilty verdict for 14 of the 16 counts, including fraud in connection with her will, larceny, conspiracy and a host of related charges. While some of the convictions do not surprise me — especially the retroactive lump-sum pay raise he gave himself of $1 million (for managing Astor's finances) — I must express my surprise at the will-related convictions.  People with Alzheimer's have good and bad days, and proving Astor was incompetent at the moment of signing, based on the high proof required in a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt), was very hard to do.  But the prosecution was aggressive.  The trial lasted more than 19 weeks and involved 72 witness who testified (in varying degrees) about Astor's mental decline.  Only two of these were defense witnesses. Marshall's attorneys have already promised an appeal.  For example, they will clearly challenge the jury verdict based on one juror's note given to the judge during their 12 days of deliberation.  The note said the female juror felt her personal safety was threatened by another juror and asked to be excused.  The judge denied the request.  Defense attorneys argue this prevented the jury from rendering a fair and objective verdict.  With a trial this long, they will likely find dozens of other grounds on which to base their appeal. In addition to the appeal, the case will also move to Surrogate's Court (New York's probate court) to determine whether the will and amendments should be invalidated based on lack of mental competency and fraud.  This seems to be a certainty after the criminal verdict.  How much of Astor's $180 million estate will pass to Marshall remains to be seen.  Here is the New York Times article about the verdict .  Families can learn two valuable lessons from this case.  First, it shows how important the proper estate planning is, because any family can be embroiled in a lengthy and expensive court fight after a loved one passes.  Good estate planning is the best way to prevent this. Second, even the very wealthy can be victims of financial exploitation and abuse.  When you have an elderly loved one with a diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer's, or even notice increased memory loss or confusion, it is time to help make sure their financial affairs are in order and monitor their bank statements and legal documents.  Apparently, even someone as wealthy as Anthony Marshall can be guilty of this crime (he was already a multi-millionaire).  Imagine what could happen to your elderly parent or grandparent with so many people desperate for money.  Do not turn a blind eye.  Be proactive.  Be safe.  Do not let what happened to Brooke Astor happen to your family members.  It's not always easy to prevent, but the sooner you spot a problem, the easier it is to prevent or rectify. Not sure how to talk to your loved ones about this?  I, with my co-author Danielle Mayoras, wrote a book to help address this very point, including a complete analysis of the Brooke Astor case and dozens of other true celebrity stories.  We help people learn from celebrity errors so they can protect their heirs.  You can learn about Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! here .    Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!  and co-founder and shareholder of  The Center for Probate Litigation and  The Center for Elder Law   in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.

The jury verdict is in for one of the most intriguing will contest cases ever.  The son of the late New York philanthropist and millionaire, Brooke Astor, had been charged with 16 counts related to fraud, larceny, forgery, and more, stemming from changes to her will and related (alleged) wrongdoing.  Here are my prior blog articles on the case.

Well maybe you can remove the word “alleged”.  The jury convicted Anthony Marshall and his co-defendant, lawyer Francis X. Morrissey, Jr.  Marshall, age 85, faces up to 25 years in jail based on the guilty verdict for 14 of the 16 counts, including fraud in connection with her will, larceny, conspiracy and a host of related charges.

While some of the convictions do not surprise me — especially the retroactive lump-sum pay raise he gave himself of $1 million (for managing Astor's finances) — I must express my surprise at the will-related convictions.  People with Alzheimer's have good and bad days, and proving Astor was incompetent at the moment of signing, based on the high proof required in a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt), was very hard to do. 

But the prosecution was aggressive.  The trial lasted more than 19 weeks and involved 72 witness who testified (in varying degrees) about Astor's mental decline.  Only two of these were defense witnesses.

Marshall's attorneys have already promised an appeal.  For example, they will clearly challenge the jury verdict based on one juror's note given to the judge during their 12 days of deliberation.  The note said the female juror felt her personal safety was threatened by another juror and asked to be excused.  The judge denied the request.  Defense attorneys argue this prevented the jury from rendering a fair and objective verdict.  With a trial this long, they will likely find dozens of other grounds on which to base their appeal.

In addition to the appeal, the case will also move to Surrogate's Court (New York's probate court) to determine whether the will and amendments should be invalidated based on lack of mental competency and fraud.  This seems to be a certainty after the criminal verdict.  How much of Astor's $180 million estate will pass to Marshall remains to be seen. 

Here is the New York Times article about the verdict

Families can learn two valuable lessons from this case.  First, it shows how important the proper estate planning is, because any family can be embroiled in a lengthy and expensive court fight after a loved one passes.  Good estate planning is the best way to prevent this.

Second, even the very wealthy can be victims of financial exploitation and abuse.  When you have an elderly loved one with a diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer's, or even notice increased memory loss or confusion, it is time to help make sure their financial affairs are in order and monitor their bank statements and legal documents.  Apparently, even someone as wealthy as Anthony Marshall can be guilty of this crime (he was already a multi-millionaire).  Imagine what could happen to your elderly parent or grandparent with so many people desperate for money. 

Do not turn a blind eye.  Be proactive.  Be safe.  Do not let what happened to Brooke Astor happen to your family members.  It's not always easy to prevent, but the sooner you spot a problem, the easier it is to prevent or rectify.

Not sure how to talk to your loved ones about this?  I, with my co-author Danielle Mayoras, wrote a book to help address this very point, including a complete analysis of the Brooke Astor case and dozens of other true celebrity stories.  We help people learn from celebrity errors so they can protect their heirs.  You can learn about Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! here.   

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and http://www.brmmlaw.com/ in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.

Excerpt from:
Brooke Astor’s son found guilty

Family Legacy Video and Financial Planning

By Katana Abbott, Certified Fiancial Planner and founder Designated Daughter

Almost 20 years ago, my mother remarried the most wonderful man who changed her life.  It was a marriage made in heaven… 20 years later; they were still in love at 86 and 72. 

Since I was a Certified Financial Planner, when they married, Dale asked me to do a financial plan; he was 72 and my mom was 58.  He created a living trust that gave my mother a life interest, but the principle transferred to his children at his death.  He also purchased life insurance and long term care for both him and my mom.  My mother’s long term care policy was $100/day with a 5% inflation rider and lifetime benefits. 

In the fall of 2005, at 86, Dale was diagnosed with lung cancer.    If we had left things the way he originally set them up, when they were first married, which was the typical joint ownership with rights of survivorship, his children would have been disinherited, my mother would not have had long term care insurance and would have used up all his assets.

Because his estate planning had been in place for years, and reviewed annually, we were able to focus on his quality of life and quality of care that last year. 

During the last three months of his life, Hospice was with us daily, we had moved his bed into the living room, so he could look out at the ducks on the pond.

The week before Dale died; he looked up at me and whispered, “You’re my miracle worker”.  I will never forget his words or the impact his planning has had on his loved ones lives.

He knew that he had done a great job; my mom was set for life and I know he had overheard us talking when we received the call from the insurance company that my mother had been approved for her long term care insurance claim.  She had recently been diagnosed with dementia and the insurance would provide her with up to $150/day for life—with an increasing benefit to keep up with inflation.  This was almost $55,000 a year of additional income that would be tax free.

Between her survivor pension and tax free long term care benefits, my mother was able to move into Sunrise Assisted Living without using any of her investment income.  In addition, we saw that she would probably never need the assets from my step father’s trust, so we made an immediate gift of $100,000 to his children who were just a few years younger than my mother. 

I am so thankful that Dale had agreed to do this planning decades before when they had many options, and were not under stress. 

I was able to play a video that I had taped of my step-father and mother for Dale’s children and grandchildren the Christmas after his death.  He still looked great in the video; the lake and flowers in the background were cheery as my step father told stories about his past, as well as stories about his father and grandfather.

His children may never have known these stories if I had not taped that video that day.  In addition, I came across some wonderful photos of his father and grandfather in northern Michigan working as loggers at the turn of the century.  I will be creating a professional legacy video this year and giving the video and some prints to his family this Christmas. 

I had always wanted to be able to do this for my clients during my 20 years as a financial planner, but I did not have this process in place at the time.

I think passing the story along with the money could help many financial and legal professionals develop a deeper relationship with their clients as well as with the next generation. 

What do you think?  What is your story?  I would love to hear from you!

Visit www.SmartWomensCafe.com for an interactive on-line community featuring  the Designated Daughter Caregiving, Legacy and Aging Experts who work together as a team in the Designated Daughter Tea Room!

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