Celebrity Estate Lessons: Brooke Astor
March 28th, 2022
Brooke Astor, famous socialite, philanthropist, and real estate heiress is also the victim of one of the most famous cases of elder abuse. In 2000, Astor was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. At some point her son, Anthony Marshall, was named her guardian. Throughout her life, Brooke had said repeatedly that she was planning on giving away all of her money and not leaving any to him, stating he was "not an Astor."
In 2002, it was alleged that Anthony had sold Brooke's favorite piece of artwork without her knowledge and without accounting for the proceeds of the sale. In July 2006, her grandson, Philip Marshall, filed a lawsuit to remove his father as Brooke's guardian and appoint Annette de la Renta (wife of Oscar) in his place. Not to drop names, but Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller also wrote affidavits supporting the request for change. The same day this was reported, a judge granted the order and appointed JPMorgan Chase to be in charge of her finances.
In August 2006, one of Brooke's employees accused Anthony of using roughly $1 million dollars of his mother's money to invest in theatrical productions. The employee claimed Anthony told her not to show Brooke any financial documents as "she didn't understand it." Anthony claims that Brooke had been fully informed.
In 2007 indictments were filed stemming from investigations into Ms. Astor's finances and a questionable signature on updates to her Will. This Will made Anthony the executor of the estate and left him everything.
In 2009, Anthony and his co-defendant, Francis X. Morrissey Jr., were sentenced to 1-3 years in prison. Brooke Astor died at the age of 105 in 2007. Her grandson left his job in 2017 to found Beyond Brooke, a charity devoted to elder justice.
As we get older, it's likely that we may lose our mental capacities. That's why it's important to have your wishes written out now, when you're still of sound mind. If you don't trust your legal next-of-kin, it's even more important to have a solid estate plan in place, just in case.