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Friday, December 9, 2011

IRS Attacks Brooke Astor Estate in Corrupt Westchester County

Brooke Astor Estate Now Faces $62 Million Attack By IRS
Forbes by William P. Barrett  -  December 7, 2011

It’s been four years since Brooke Astor, the oft- and well-married grande dame of New York City society, died at age 105 amid sensational allegations her only son, Anthony Marshall, neglected her care and stole part of her considerable wealth. At age 87, he’s appealing his 14-count conviction and 1-to-3-year prison sentence. But now the storied Astor fortune–the last of her three husbands was a direct descendant of America’s first multi-millionaire–faces another big threat: the Internal Revenue Service.

The Astor estate recently filed seven lawsuits in U.S. Tax Court to challenge IRS demands that executors cough up another $62 million. The litigation promises to flick some more scab off a wound that has both titilated and even embarrassed New York’s chattering classes.  As it so often the case in tax litigation involving dead people, the size of Astor’s estate is looming as a key issue. That’s made all the more complicated by allegations that Marshall and his similarly convicted and sentenced lawyer buddy, Francis X. Morrissey Jr., who is also appealing, used undue influence and even forgery in getting Astor to amend her will and reduced planned gifts to various charitable entities.  According to court filings, the feds say her taxable estate is $223 million, with a total federal tax bill of $97 million. Astor’s representative say her stash is just $93 million, with a tax bill of $35 million. The two valuations fall on both sides of a $131 million estimate made public a few months before her death during a successful court battle by relatives to remove Marshall from control over his mother’s care. Why the big gap in valuations now? Some $96 million of that pertains to charitable bequests the estate claims as deductions but which the feds say are uncertain and therefore not eligible to be used to reduce taxes.

Then there is $20 million in what the feds call gifts that Astor gave away during her lifetime and should have been included in the estate. It appears much of this involved transfers to her son, some of which appear to be at the heart of the criminal case against him and are issues in the ongoing probate case in Westchester County, N.Y., where she lived.  However, the estate acknowledges that federal gift-tax returns were not filed. So the IRS demand for $62 million on more includes $2 million in penalties for failure to file and failure to pay. Six of the seven lawsuits filed by the estate deal with gift tax issues in the years returns weren’t filed. For advice on how to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, click here. For other estate-planning lessons from the Astor mess, click here. Meanwhile, Astor’s estate continues the process of liquidating her assets. Her lavish apartment on Park Avenue in New York City was just sold for $21 million (down from an original asking price of $46 million). Sotheby’s announced last week it will hold an auction of her jewelry and art in April expected to bring in upwards of $5 million.  At her death, Astor was hailed for her wide-ranging philanthropy, especially to underprivileged classes; her lack of pretension and her status as perhaps the last link to the “Gilded Age.” That was the time around 1900 when, it was said, New York society consisted of a number of well-heeled families led by her last husband’s grandmother, the wife of William Backhouse Astor. Indeed, it was that exact number–400–that decades later inspired the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.  Born in 1902 to a future U.S. Marine commandant, she was married for the first time at age 17 to a financier’s son who became a New Jersey politician (and the father of Anthony Marshall). After their divorce she remarried in 1932, to a partner of a Wall Street investment firm.  Eleven months after his death, in 1953 she married Vincent Astor. Then chairman of the company owning Newsweek magazine, he was the scion of a family line dating back to John Jacob Astor, who amassed a fur- and lumber-fortune in the years after the Revolutionary War. At his death in 1848, John Jacob Astor left behind an estate estimated at $20 million–easily tens of billions in today’s dollars.  Vincent’s own father, John Jacob Astor IV, died in the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, leaving him an inheritance of $72 million–$1.7 billion in today’s dollars. Vincent Astor died of a heart attack in 1959 at age 67. Despite just six years of marriage, he bequeathed his entire fortune to Brooke Astor.


Anonymous said...

No one, including the IRS, is supposed to get any money from any estate in Westchester because the money belongs to insiders (lap dog lawyers and their friends)

Anonymous said...

I wonder in which Surrogate Court Mrs. Astor's will was probated?

Was that in Westchester County?

Hmmmmmm? I wonder who the Surrogate Judge is in Westchester County?

Anonymous said...

Surrogate Scarpino is the lucky one and he and his friends are having a party. The pigs are eating well.

West. Surrogate Retired Worker said...

Jody Keltz is in charge of this one and she has a very hot potato

Anonymous said...

Is this the same person who stole that house in Scarsdale from the elderly woman?

Anonymous said...

Good old Jody Keltz got an "inside-sweet-heart-deal" because she has a good Rabbi who can control the court system so she gets a free pass. Many court blood sucker made a bundle on money from the Estate that had this home all with Surrogate Court approval of course. Do you call this CORRUPTION? Not in Westchester, it's just business as usual!

Anonymous said...

The Westchester Surrogate Court is a cesspool, Judge Scarpino is the head gangster! The Feds know this and do nothing except give him a free pass?

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that the Manhattan DA didn't keep control of the Astor matter. Scarpino raised Hell about this. It's even too bad that the Manhattan DA didn't conduct an investigation of Westchester Surrogate Judge Scarpino. If he did there would be long lines of people who would testify about the corruption.

Anonymous said...

The PIGS up in the Westchester Surrogate's Court are eating well off the Astor Estate. Hey, Tony Scarpino the feds are watching and you have made a great many enemies

Anonymous said...

Prediction - Judge Anthony Scarpino will artfully bleed the Astor pile of money to the benefit of himself and his friends. Are the FEDS watching? The buzz was always that they have their former SA Agent (FBI) on their radar. Wonder what happened? Did they go blind or were politics in play?

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