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What New Yorkers can learn from Epstein’s estate plan

Most people would be quick to say that they have nothing in common with Jeffrey Epstein. The 66-year-old financier was facing multiple federal sex trafficking charges involving minors when he died last month — reportedly by hanging himself in his Manhattan jail cell.

However, his estate is subject to the same laws as many other people’s estates. Therefore, there are a few things worth looking at.

Epstein’s estate is worth over $577 million — perhaps much more, since the value of his artwork and collectibles haven’t been assessed yet. However, he established a will and trust just two days before his death. As one New York attorney notes, “The time to do your will is not two days before you die. You’ll have higher odds of getting something wrong if you rush the process.”

The size of the estate means it will be subject to federal estate and gift taxes. It could also be subject to New York taxes. Although Epstein filed his will in the Virgin Islands, he also had properties in multiple other locations, including New York. Our state is well-known for getting taxes from people who try to avoid them by claiming residency in other states or countries.

Multiple women have filed lawsuits against Epstein’s estate in the hope of obtaining some sort of justice for his alleged acts. Another New York attorney says, “This estate will be mired in litigation for a long time until the plaintiffs are paid.”

Typically, the executor of an estate is required to pay creditors, including plaintiffs who have been awarded judgments, before the assets of an estate are distributed. Some people assume that if you set up a trust in the right way, you can protect your assets from creditors and plaintiffs.

However, that’s not always the case — particularly if you’re facing lawsuits when you die. As one New York wealth advisor explains, “There’s something known as a fraudulent conveyance where you know you’re going to be sued and your motive is to create the trust to protect it from would-be creditors.”

If you’re setting up a trust that you hope will protect your assets from going to pay your debts and/or lawsuits, it’s essential to talk with your attorney to determine what options — if any — are available to you.

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