Update 12/23/2009:

Anthony Marshall  has been found guilty of 14 of the 15 counts against him. Marshall was convicted in October of the most serious charges – first-degree grand larceny and scheming to defraud. He faces a minimum of one to three years, or as much as eight to 25 years in state prison. Marshall’s former attorney, Francis Morrissey, was also convicted of five counts relating to the case, including forgery and scheming to defraud Astor.

Original Article:

It’s sad, but often all too true. A person who’s ill or elderly is taken advantage of by someone she trusts. He takes his loved one’s belongings for his personal use, completely ignoring his loved one’s wishes that she expressed in her last will and testament. This is what happened recently when Anthony Marshall looted his mother’s estate.

Marshall’s Case

Anthony Marshall is a former US ambassador and an award winning Broadway producer. His mother, Brooke Astor, was well-known and much loved socialite and philanthropist in New York City. She suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years before she died. At the time of her death in August of 2007 she was worth about $200 million. According to the criminal charges filed against Marshall and his attorney-friend Francis Morrissey, Astor’s will directed that $60 million of her fortune be given to her favorite charities after she died. That is, until Marshall and Morrissey interfered.

Marshall stole artwork from Astor’s home and sold it. He also paid himself $1 million for acting as Astor’s financial adviser, and used her cash to buy a yacht and pay the captain’s salary. It gets worse. Marshall either had Astor sign changes to her will (called “codicils“), or forged her signature on at least one, so that the $60 million earmarked for charity could be disposed of as Marshall saw fit. The prosecution claimed that Marshall’s motivation was to make sure that his wife, Charlene Marshall, whom Astor didn’t like, would get the $60 million after Marshall died.

Taking Advantage

Marshall’s tactics are clear examples of looting an estate and taking advantage of an ill and elderly loved one. And, as in many of these cases, the motivation is greed. Marshall was already a wealthy man, and his mother’s will, if left untouched, gave him plenty of money. But he wanted – and took – more.

Greed and other motivations often leads to a less obvious way to cheat an estate. Undue influence is when someone abuses the trust he has with another person to influence that person’s decisions, especially when it comes to a will and disposing of her money and property. Good examples are when:

  • A child is the primary care giver for a parent and spends the most time with her, and he uses his position of trust to convince the parent that her other children don’t need or deserve to share in her estate when she dies
  • A new spouse convinces a parent to change her will so that he gets money or property that was originally designated for her
  • Threatening to hurt someone or his family unless he names the person making the threats in his will

It’s likely that Marshall abused his position of trust to influence his mother’s decisions when it came to her signature on at least one of the codicils that treated Marshall more favorably than the original will.

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