Financier Jeffrey Epstein’s will could make it harder for his accusers to collect damages, according to an article in the Epoch Times.

Epstein took his own life earlier last month while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges. The financier, who had been convicted of sex offences in 2008, was arrested in July on federal charges of sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. According to the Epoch Times article, two days before his death he signed a will placing more than $377 million of his assets in a trust fund.

Speaking to the news outlet, probate and estate planning lawyer, Regina Kiperman said opening the trust would be difficult, making it harder for Epstein’s alleged victims to seek financial compensation. Epstein’s will still needs to be admitted to probate and his assets transferred to the trust, though the lawyer said she doubted the trust had been funded before he died. This would allow Epstein’s alleged victims to seek damages as the estate would be able to pay out claims.

Additional barrier

The trust Epstein set up did not necessarily fully protect his assets—it just set up an additional barrier for people to overcome.

While the New York City Medical Examiner’s office has concluded Epstein died by suicide from hanging, his lawyers have said they are not satisfied with the result and will conduct their own investigation into his death. The discovery of the new will and the trust raised suspicions Epstein had created it to hide money from the many who have accused him of sexual assault. Money or assets placed in a trust means the identities of the proposed beneficiaries—individuals, organisations or others—are hidden from public view. If Epstein’s alleged victims want to try to get money from his estate, they would first need to persuade a judge to reveal who the heirs to his estate are. Then, they would need to convince a judge that they were entitled to compensation as victims of his crimes. Following that, the next move would be for a judge to decide how much they would get from the estate and whether to reduce the amounts given to Epstein’s named heirs.

$56 million in cash and properties

Epstein’s assets include $56 million in cash, properties in New York, Florida, New Mexico, the Virgin Islands and Paris, $18.5 million in aircraft, boats, vehicles, and arts and collectibles. The US government can seek civil forfeiture of Epstein’s properties or any other assets if it concludes they were used for criminal purposes though this would require strong evidence. If this were proved, they could seize the properties, sell them and distribute the proceeds.

The attorney who represents several of Epstein’s accusers, Lisa Bloom told the Associated Press that she considered it “gross negligence” on Epstein’s lawyers’ part and the jail staff that he’d been allowed to sign a new will as he had attempted suicide before the date he died.

Criminal defence attorney Julie Rendelman told the Epoch Times said she thought questions would be asked about Epstein’s mental capacity to sign a will, given that he took his life two days later and had attempted to do so weeks beforehand.



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