Estate could take years to unravel
Jeffrey Epstein’s surprise death Saturday in a New York jail casts uncertainty into the management of the considerable assets the wealthy financier left behind.
Although Epstein has long been rumored to be a billionaire, recent court documents suggest his fortune is worth a little over $559 million dollars.
Included in that number is a Manhattan estate valued at over $50 million and a Palm Beach estate valued a hair over $12 million.
Spencer Kuvin, a Palm Beach attorney who represented three of Epstein’s victims in a first federal case against him over a decade ago, has no doubt that new victims who have come forward in recent months will go after Epstein’s estate.
However, Kuvin is also quite certain that those victims will face an uphill legal battle before they ever see a penny. “It’s going to be a legal mess for years to come,” he said.
Kuvin, whose own clients have already settled
cases with Epstein, said he did not know any specifics about what might happen to Epstein’s wealth and whether Epstein left behind a will.
However, Kuvin did say that during the initial federal case against Epstein in 2008, a full asset search was conducted which revealed that much of Epstein’s assets were split among multiple corporations, entities, trusts and offshore accounts.
“It’s going to be a morass of legal wrangling to figure out all the connections between everything,” Kuvin said.
Adam Horowitz, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who settled eight civil lawsuits against Epstein on behalf of victims a decade ago, agreed.
“Wealthy people with the means to hire financial planners tend to insulate themselves from lawsuits,” Horowitz said.
He believes the success of the suits will depend on how much of Epstein’s assets were protected and who will be appointed to take control. Horowitz said he is not aware of Epstein having any children. The closest surviving relative, to his knowledge, is Epstein’s younger brother, Mark, who lives in New York.
That $559 million number listed in recent court filings should also be taken with a grain of salt, according to Horowitz. The documents don’t say where the money is held or by whom, which paints an uncertain picture about how much will be available for victims to pursue.
Horowitz’s past dealings with Epstein’s legal team a decade ago could provide some insight.
Horowitz said that because he and his clients were seeking punitive damages at the time, they were entitled to uncover Epstein’s net worth so the court could take it into account when deciding compensation.
Horowitz said that Epstein’s lawyers objected to releasing the numbers and stalled, never providing a full disclosure. All they admitted to was that Epstein was worth over a billion dollars — a figure that has been disputed.
Horowitz said that during litigation, Epstein’s lawyers made it clear that even if his clients were to win a judgement, there was no way they would ever collect the money. Horowitz said he interpreted that to mean that the money was tied up and protected.
On the other hand, he said, it could have been a negotiating tactic to encourage the victims Horowitz represented to settle — which they did.
The possibility that Epstein’s money may be difficult to obtain will not scare Los Angeles based attorney Lisa Bloom away from filing two suits against his estate later this week. “I assume, like every case I take on, that it will be difficult and I will have to fight for years and years,” Bloom said.
Bloom represents two of Epstein’s victims from New York who had been cooperating with the open federal criminal investigation. “That case is now over,” she said, “but a criminal case is still possible.”
Bloom said she hopes that whoever is charged with administering Epstein’s assets will hold them until all victims can come forward and be compensated for his actions. She is prepared to proceed even if that administrator is uncooperative.
Earlier this year, Bloom won $11 million in damages for a woman who accused another billionaire of sexual assault. Bloom said she is well versed in large estates that attempt to conceal their true value.
“That is what I expect,” Bloom said. “Billionaires typically hide their money.”
What will be interesting, Bloom said, is whether beneficiaries of Epstein’s estate are willing to do right by his victims, many of whom, she said, have suffered lifelong depression as a result of their encounters. “The damages are very real,” Bloom said. “I think its justice for his money to be used to compensate for those damages.”