February 26, 2020

Report: Brooke Astor’s will leaves bulk of estate to son

NEW YORK – After a long life in the public eye, philanthropist Brooke Astor has written her own epitaph: “I had a wonderful life.”

Those words are to be inscribed on the 105-year-old socialite’s tombstone when she dies, under the terms of a will that details the disposition of everything from her fortune to her fur coats, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said it had obtained a copy of the will, signed in January 2002 and filed under seal in Westchester County Surrogate Court, from an unidentified person involved in a legal fight over the document.

Astor’s personal wealth is valued at about $130 million, and an estimated $60 million trust left by her late husband, Vincent Astor, is also hers to bequeath, according to the Times. He was a great-great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, who made a fortune in fur trading and New York real estate.

The newspaper said Brooke Astor’s only child, Anthony Marshall, 83, is to inherit the bulk of her fortune, including proceeds from the future sale of her 65-acre Westchester estate and a duplex apartment on Manhattan’s posh Park Avenue.

Until recent years, Brooke Astor summered for decades at her Cove End estate in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island.

Nonprofit institutions also are major beneficiaries, set to receive about half the trust left by Vincent Astor, according to the newspaper. The New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are poised to get millions, and $2 million is destined for New York University to support foreign travel for “outstanding” New York City public school teachers.

Some organizations stood to receive bigger shares of the trust before Astor’s will was changed in 2003 to channel about half of the trust into Marshall’s own charitable fund, the Times reported.

That amendment and others directed millions of dollars to her son and his charitable fund, drawing questions from Astor’s court-appointed lawyer, who has suggested the frail philanthropist may not have been capable of understanding the changes.

A handwriting expert concluded that the signature on a 2004 amendment was not hers, although lawyers for Marshall have contested that.

Those questions arose amid a bitter family feud last year over Astor’s personal care and the management of her fortune.

One of Astor’s grandsons, Philip Marshall, asked a court in July to remove his father from Astor’s affairs. The grandson accused his father of letting one of America’s wealthiest women live in squalor while he looted her fortune.

Anthony Marshall denied it, but he agreed in October to step aside as his mother’s guardian. A judge appointed one of Astor’s friends, Annette de la Renta, as guardian of Astor’s personal care and JPMorgan Chase bank as guardian of her property.

Each of Astor’s twin grandsons is to receive $1 million, and her daughter-in-law, Charlene Marshall, is not overlooked: The will gives her a mink coat and a chinchilla one, as well as a necklace studded with 367 diamonds.

In the decades after her husband’s death in 1959, Astor gave away nearly $200 million to support major New York cultural institutions and a host of more humble projects.

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