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Estate of NY socialite, philanthropist sees end to will contest

Our Alpharetta readers may or may not have heard of New York socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor. Astor is known for her family ties to old American money and her charitable donations. Astor died in 2007 at the age of 105. Since her death, her estate has been troubled by a dispute over provisions in her estate planning documents under which she left millions to New York charities.

That dispute, which reportedly ended last Wednesday with a settlement that will allow $100 million to go to the charities, involved her 88-yuear-old son Anthony Marshall, who brought a will contest after his mother’s death.

The settlement cuts by over half the amount going to Marshall, Astor’s son by her first husband. At the time of her death, Astor had several wills and revisions, and Marshall and the charities had disagreed on which documents represented her true intentions.

Back in 2009, while the estate battle was going on, Marshall was convicted of elder abuse by taking advantage of Astor’s dementia and persuading her to change her will. He has since appealed that ruling.

In drafting the settlement, several codicils-additions to wills-which would have given Anthony Marshall millions more at the expense of the charities were ignored. Under the settlement, his inheritance is reduced to $12.3 million, though he will be required to pay that money to the estate because of his criminal conviction.

Will challenges like this can be very costly, and the charities have expressed relief that a settlement was reached. The institutions that stand to benefit from the settlement include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library and New York City’s public schools.

The settlement does not provide details of the current size of the Astor estate, though it was estimated to be at $198 million in 2007.

Source: Washington Post, “Settlement ends 5-year fight in NY over Brooke Astor’s estate; millions freed for charity,” March 28, 2012.