Jeffrey Epstein made a lot of mistakes in his lifetime.
In 2008, he pleaded guilty and was convicted by a Florida state court of soliciting a prostitute and of procuring an underage girl for prostitution. While investigating that case, federal officials identified 36 girls, some as young as 14 years old, whom Epstein sexually abused.
This July, he was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges. On August 10, he committed suicide instead of facing the consequences.
His story is receiving such intense media attention, even his estate plan is making headlines. Overall, the documents that are part of the public record reveal a very standard estate plan. His will directs that his debts be paid — hopefully, some of this money will go to his alleged victims as well — and dumps all remaining assets into a trust.
We will probably never know what happens to the assets once they are placed in the trust because that is how trusts work. Trusts shield their inner workings from public scrutiny. This is what makes trusts such an important estate planning tool. Yes, they can help reduce taxes in some instances, but privacy and control are their bigger benefits.
Although the trust is being called mysterious and there is a lot of speculation about it, it is not that unusual. What is unusual about Epstein’s estate plan is the fact that it was made just days before his death, and some of the people named in it.
Timing Is Important
Epstein executed a new estate plan on August 8. On August 10, he took his own life. The short period between his legal maneuvers and his death opens the door to allegations that this hastily crafted plan should be thrown out.
For a will to be valid, its creator must have been of sound mind when the document was signed. The fact that Epstein took his own life just two days after he made a new will could inspire someone who stood to benefit from any previous estate plan or from the laws that say what happens when someone dies without a will, to challenge the new plan.
The court documents filed after Epstein’s death state that his only surviving relative is his brother, Mark Epstein. This brother could decide to challenge Epstein’s will.
Don’t Draft Someone Into Service Without Talking To Them
The second weird thing about Epstein’s estate plan is that the person he named as a back-up executor (person who is going to make sure the instructions in the will are carried out) appears to have no idea that Epstein was going to name him in his will.
Epstein named two lawyers he had worked with over the years as the primary executors of his estate — Darren K. Indyke and Richard D. Kahn. These men have agreed to serve in that capacity but had they not, Epstein suggested a man named Boris Nikolic take their place.
Nikolic, a biotech venture capitalist, is a former advisor to Bill Gates. It is reportedly a shock that Epstein would name him in his will. “I was not consulted in these matters and I have no intent to fulfill these duties, whatsoever,” Nikolic said in a statement.
This is a high profile example of something we see all too often. Many people are shocked when a loved one — or in Nikolic’s case, an acquaintance — dies and they are notified that they have been asked to step up and serve as an estate administrator, a guardian for young children, or the trustee of a trust.
A Long Road Ahead
The oddities in Epstein’s estate plan only add to his bizarre story. And, it is a story we will all be hearing about for years to come. We will be closely watching to see what sort of claims his alleged victims make on the estate, and we hope that whatever the outcome they find peace.