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Two days before he killed himself, Epstein signed his will.

Summary: He puts the value of his wealth at more than $577 million

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands: Less than 48 hours before Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself, he was preparing for death: He had just signed his will, according to court documents filed Monday in the Virgin Islands.

Epstein was found early August 10, after he had ended his life with a bedsheet he had tied to his bunk in a federal jail cell in Manhattan. Left behind were scores of anguished accusers, a universe of unanswered questions and a $500 million (Dh1.83 billion) fortune, which he ordered placed in a hastily arranged trust.

"The 1953 Trust," apparently named for Epstein's birth year, was established the same day the will was signed -- two days before he was found dead in his cramped cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre.

"In witness whereof, I have duly executed this will, 8 day of August 2019," Epstein wrote, followed by a small, looping blue signature.

The document's timing, in hindsight, was a harbinger of the abrupt end of Epstein's life of privilege.

In creating the trust, Epstein, who had cultivated an air of mystery before he was arrested in early July on federal sex-trafficking charges, may have been attempting to shield his final dealings from public scrutiny.

The operations of a trust generally are kept secret, unlike litigation associated with a traditional will, said Patrick D. Goodman, a probate law expert at the University of California, Los Angeles law school.

"It avoids prying eyes because the trust is private," Goodman said.

Single remaining heir

The will runs 21 pages, and was filed in the probate division of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, in St. Thomas, just a few miles from the private island Epstein, 66, owned. He named Darren K. Indyke and Richard D. Kahn, two longtime associates, as the executors. Efforts to reach Indyke and Kahn were unsuccessful.

He listed a single remaining heir, his brother, Mark Epstein, a real estate magnate in New York.

The document, first reported on by the New York Post, stipulates that if The 1953 Trust is found to be ineffective, his estate should be divided among its trustees, who are not named in the will.

The will presents the most detailed estimate to date of Epstein's wealth, the origins of which have remained murky even as the financier had been ordered to provide an accounting in federal court. In his will, he puts its value at more than $577 million.

The estimate includes tens of millions of dollars in shares to private companies, which hold the titles to Epstein's properties in New Mexico, Paris, New York and the Virgin Islands. It also includes more than $194 million in unspecified hedge fund and private equity investments.

Photorealistic prison scene

Missing from the ledger is the value of Epstein's art collection, which was widely known to be sizeable, erotic and bizarre. On the second floor of his $56 million Manhattan mansion, for example, was a mural Epstein had commissioned: a photorealistic prison scene that included barbed wire, correction officers and a guard station, with Epstein portrayed in the middle. The value of his artwork is pending appraisal, the will states.

While Epstein bequeathed his entire fortune to The 1953 Trust and its unidentified trustees, the future of his wealth remains in limbo.

One of Epstein's accusers, Jennifer Araoz, sued his estate last week, and his wealth may not be able to pass into the trust until that suit is resolved. More lawsuits also are expected.

"The assets of the will cannot be distributed to any beneficiaries, including a trust, until any creditors, including victims who are owed damages or restitution, have collected what they are owed," Goodman said. "Who determines what they are owed is a court of law."

Federal prosecutors filed papers in federal court Monday, dropping the criminal case against him. But prosecutors have indicated that their sweeping investigation has not ended.

"Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein," US Attorney General William Barr said last week. "Any co-conspirator should not rest easy."

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 20, 2019
Words:704
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