Current Trends - Jeffrey Epstein's Estate - Episode 58
Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for another episode of Legal Tea! Today’s topic is a current trend … something going on in current time, that is pertinent to my little estate and elder law world. So, on today’s episode, I stumbled upon an article on Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate – and it was specifically titled, “Executors of Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate Are Accused of Moving $13 Million.” I instantly thought, “Oh, that would be interesting to dive into on my podcast” … so here we are! That’s what today is on – Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate and the latest happenings going on with that, including the things his Executors are doing (or trying to do, rather).
Let’s start with Jeff Epstein – as a person – before we dive into his Estate and what has happened lately with it. According to a Womens Health article by Emily Shiffer, Epstein, before he became really “who” he was, was a math and physics teacher in his 20s. Through that, he tutored the son of a head honcho at Bear Stearns (pronounced Bear Sterns) who ultimately helped get Epstein’s foot in the door at the establishment. Eventually, Epstein became a limited partner – but time passed, and he left the company to start his own in the early 1980s. It was called Intercontinental Assets Group, Inc. Shortly after its creation, he also started two additional companies called J. Epstein & Co. and Financial Strategy Group, Inc.
When he got into the financial arena, this is when Epstein really started running around in some elite circles. In my research for this episode, I found an article on the New York Magazine’s Intelligencer website (linked in my sources) that described Epstein, his elite circles, and his ways like this: “For decades, important, influential, “serious” [said in quotations] people attended Epstein’s dinner parties, rode his private jet, and furthered the fiction that he was some kind of genius hedge-fund billionaire. How do we explain why they looked the other way, or flattered Epstein, even as they must have noticed he was often in the company of a young harem? Easy: They got something in exchange from him.” Yikes. So, if somehow you’ve been living under a rock and you weren’t familiar with the name of Epstein, just know his name is associated with not-great things. Not-great things at all.
Dating back to the early 2000s, Epstein had been involved in legal proceedings – both criminal and civil proceedings – but most involved disgustingly inappropriate behavior involving girls – many of which were minors – and sex trafficking. Fast forward some time, Epstein’s past caught up to him and he was convicted of sex trafficking/conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking in July of 2019, according to a New York Times article. While incarcerated, Epstein was found in the early hours on August 10th dead in his cell. Now, there’s a lot of conspiracy theories out there –was it murder, was it suicide, what was it? Whatever happened, he passed away on August 10, 2019.
A mere two days before he died, according to a New York Post article, Epstein signed a new Last Will and Testament. Wow – two flipping days before. Anyway, Epstein’s Will created a Trust, which is called a testamentary trust. So, that means any assets passing through Epstein’s Will would fall into this Trust. Want to hear a little interesting tidbit – so Wills often required two unbiased witnesses to sign along with the person signing the Will – anyway, the two witnesses on Epstein’s Will were attorneys. One of them, according to the New York Post article, was none other than the attorney for drug kingpin, El Chapo. Yow-za. Okay.
So back to his Will – it actually got filed in the US Virgin Islands, which is where Epstein held two properties (islands, specifically, because you know … he owned two literal islands). The New York Post explained, via their legal expert, which I could see, that Epstein’s lawyers probably filed his Will there to try to keep things private – at least as private as they can be with this level of stuff going on. The Will itself, nor the legal proceeding, would show the beneficiary of the Trust (because, as we’ve discussed before on here, trusts can be setup in a way to maintain privacy), but it’s said that the Trust beneficiary is probably his brother, Mark Epstein, or maybe his girlfriend, Karyna Shuliak, who happened to be the last person Epstein talked to before he passed away. So, who knows about that front – who knows who the beneficiaries are.
One thing we do know for sure is that Epstein’s past … continues to haunt him, just through his Estate. Prior to his death and even after, Epstein has been and continues to be sued by accusers. So, his Estate and his Executors have their hands full to say the least – speaking of Executors, who are they? Well, according to New York Post, they are two longtime employees of Epstein – Attorney, Darren Indyke (pronounced In-dike) and Businessman and In-House Accountant, Richard Kahn – which leads us to one of the latest happenings of Epstein’s case – the article I mentioned at the very beginning. How they, the two Executors, are accused of moving $13 Million – so I wasn’t sure what I was exactly diving into when I started this episode, but at this point in my research, I was like, “Whoa – this is far more complex than I originally thought!”
Okay, so in my initial research, it talked about Epstein’s Will – and how that Will created the testamentary trust I was just blabbing about. Well, this article, and many other ones, started talking about another trust called the Butterfly Trust. According to the New York Times article, the Butterfly Trust was “an investment vehicle Mr. Epstein had established in 2013.” Okay, so the whole $13 Million Dollar transfer comes into play with it. This all came to light because, remember how I said all the filings occurred in the Virgin Islands – well, the Attorney General for the Virgin Island, someone named Denise George, is who is bringing all this to light. According to the article, George (and her colleagues) are raising questions about the transfer of $13 Million Dollars.
Apparently, on or around April 2020, an investment that Epstein had a stake in was liquidated, so the ol’ Butterfly Trust got $13 Million Dollars from it. Wel then, according to the New Times article, the money was transferred subsequently to three new entities. The catch? Two of them have the attorneys, Indyke and Kahn, as well as their spouses, as the beneficiaries of said entities. Rut roh! So, George, the Attorney General, is asking the Court to dig into the transfer and entities to “make sure other estate assets have not been transferred to ‘enrich’ the Executors.” Specifically, George’s filing stated, “The government discovered that substantial funds kept secret from the government were transferred for the benefit of the Co-Executors in an apparent effort to enrich themselves and shelter these assets from recovery.” The article continues on by mentioning that the same filing shares that the Co-Executors failed to mention that Epstein had loaned them several million dollars.
Of course, to no one’s surprise, Indyke and Kahn responded and said that they “categorically reject the baseless assertions of wrongdoing made against them and that they never received $13 Million.” Their statement continued on, “The Butterfly Trust mentioning in today’s filing by Ms. George has nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Epstein’s Estate or any funds available to it.” Though, in direct relation to the Estate and victims of Epstein’s awful ways, the New York Times article shared that the Butterfly Trust HAD been tapped into to pay some of the people involved with Epstein in recruiting/grooming teenage girls. So, it sounds like there’s a game of finger-pointing going on right now as to whether the Butterfly Trust is or is not part of Epstein’s Estate – and I think if there IS proof/evidence that it was used to do all the bad things he did, maybe it CAN be part of Epstein’s Estate to help pay the victims and the many lawsuits he/his estate are involved in.
Speaking of Ms. George, she seems to have a bone to pick with Epstein and his Estate – and probably, given what we all know about Epstein, rightfully so… Anyway, according to the same New York Times article, the Virgin Islands went after Epstein’s Estate in January 2020 (so a couple years ago now) trying to recoup $80 Million Dollars because George, again, argued against Epstein/Epstein’s Estate saying that “U.S. territory [speaking of Virgin Islands] was deceived into granting lucrative tax benefits that enabled Mr. Epstein to use his private island residence there as a place to sexually abuse teenage girls and young women.” So, you remember how earlier I said they filed in the Virgin Islands to maintain some sense of privacy? Well, to me, it seems the Virgin Islands and Ms. George has something to say about that!
It is said that Epstein’s Estate is worth just north of $600 Million at the time of his death, according to New York Times. Another New York Times article shared that when Epstein passed away, his Estate contained quite the assortment of assets, including a lot of investments/financial holdings, private jets/helicopter, properties, including the islands we talked about, a mansion in Manhattan, a place in Palm Beach, FL, an apartment in Paris and a 7600 acre farm in New Mexico; and his vast array of personal property, including a very extensive art collection
Though, following his passing, his Estate has paid close to $200 Million in taxes and paid out around $120 Million in settlements for the victims … but the Estate is clearly very much still in the “pending” stage. Is it Estate really worth $600 Million – is it worth more? Are things NOT being disclosed (i.e. the Butterfly Trust)? I’m sure the settlements are not done … I’m sure victims will continue to come forward (as they absolutely should) … so what ends up going to his Estate beneficiaries, whoever they are, is a big ol’ T.B.D. What will come of the allegation regarding the Executors and the $13 Million? Or, what about the legal fees – oh my goodness. According to New York Times, there has been over $30 Million in legal fees (and that article was published in January 2022, so you know it’s only continued to go up since then). So, needless to say, this Estate may be going on for a while … like so many Estate cases we cover here on Legal Tea.
There’s been some talk about bringing the Estate to a close and trying to make their way down the path to finish things out, but it seems there is quite a bit still lingering, so we’ll just have to see, I suppose! Alrighty, next week’s topic is on estate planning of the rich and the famous – on that episode, we’re going to talk about one of the former richest people in the world, Howard Hughes, and what happened estate-wise following his passing. There sure were some bizarre things that happened, so tune in next Tuesday, Legal Tea Listeners, to hear all about it. Talk to you then and stay well!