News broke recently about a global settlement involving the estate of Brooke Astor. The renowned New York society queen and philanthropist, who died at age 105, left behind an estate of nearly $200 million dollars.
Astor’s assets — along with the $50 million charitable trust of her late husband — have been tied up since she passed in 2007. The fighting was so extensive that it dragged in a “who’s who” of top New York City institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller University, and even the United Nations, among many others.
Under Astor’s 2002 will, her only son, Anthony Marshall, stood to inherit tens of millions of dollars, with most of it slated to pass to charity after he died. But Marshall wanted much more. He and a lawyer, Francis X. Morrissey, Jr., convinced the elderly Astor — when she was suffering from dementia — to sign a series of codicils to Astor’s 2002 will. These codicils would have allowed Marshall to leave much of Astor’s fortune to whomever he wanted (specifically, his younger wife, whom Astor reportedly detested) instead of to charity.