Choose Wisely When Designating Power of Attorney – The Brooke Astor Estate

brooke astor, estate litigation, wills and trusts, estate planning, union and hunterdon counties new jersey
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Choose Wisely When Designating Power of Attorney – The Brooke Astor Estate

Brooke Astor was a New York writer, socialite and philanthropist who donated approximately $200 million dollars to numerous organizations including the Bronx Zoo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. For her contributions to the city, Brooke received many awards including the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1988 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

Unfortunately, as Brooke got older, it became apparent that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Her son, Anthony Marshall, who resented her for abandoning him in English-style boarding schools as a youth, quickly swooped in along with her estate attorney Francis X. Morrissey Jr., and swindled her out millions.

Brooke’s other relatives have explained that eventually her condition deteriorated so severely that she could no longer recognize family members. In addition to inducing his mother to amend her will several times, Mr. Marshall gave himself a $1 million retroactive raise for managing his mother’s estate.

On Oct. 8, 2009, after 12 days of deliberation, a jury in State Supreme Court in Manhattan convicted Mr. Marshall on 14 of 16 counts, including first-degree grand larceny for giving himself a $1 million retroactive raise.

Additionally, Mr. Morrissey was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy and of forging Mrs. Astor’s signature on an amendment to her will. The jury found that Morrissey and Marshall had taken advantage of Mrs. Astor’s failing mental health to gain control over her fortune. In 2009, both men were sentenced to one to three years in prison; Marshall served only 2 months due to his failing health.  In November of 2014, Anthony Marshall passed away at home.

Brooke Astor could have prevented the legal mess that ensued after she succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease by giving power of attorney to a more trustworthy person. For many years she had a strained relationship with her son Anthony; an individual who resented her well into his adult years. Yet for some reason, she gave him power of attorney.

If you are planning your estate, it is important that you sit down with an experienced lawyer. He or she can go over issues like power of attorney, living trusts, etc., and explain which mechanisms are best for your situation. For more information on estate planning in Hunterdon or Union Counties, New Jersey, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., by email at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

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