Jeffrey Epstein signed a will just two days before he killed himself in the Manhattan federal jail, new court records show, opening a new legal front in what could be a yearslong battle over the financier’s fortune.
Court papers filed last week in the U.S. Virgin Islands list no details of beneficiaries but put the estate at more than US$577-million, including more than US$56-million in cash.
The existence of the will, first reported by the New York Post, raised new questions about Mr. Epstein’s final days inside the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.
His signing of the document foreshadowed his Aug. 10 suicide, a jailhouse death that has prompted multiple federal inquiries and cast a harsh light on staffing shortages at the Manhattan facility.
Prosecutors on Monday moved to dismiss the indictment against Mr. Epstein, but have said they are considering charging others with facilitating his alleged abuse of dozens of girls.
The filing of the will, meanwhile, had been closely followed by lawyers representing women who claim they were sexually abused by Mr. Epstein when they were teenagers and recruited into his residences to provide him massages.
Several lawyers vowed to go after his assets even if the will had named beneficiaries, as Mr. Epstein’s death means there will be no trial on the criminal charges against him. One woman filed suit against the estate last week, claiming Mr. Epstein repeatedly raped her when she was a teenager.
“Give his entire estate to his victims. It is the only justice they can get,” one of those lawyers, Lisa Bloom, wrote in an e-mail. “And they deserve it. And on behalf of the Epstein victims I represent, I intend to fight for it.”
Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein, who is now in private practice in Miami but not involved in the Epstein case, said states and U.S. territories have certain time frames within which to make a claim against someone’s estate.
“There are certainly going to be a lot of lawyers involved,” Mr. Weinstein said. “It’s not going to be over any time soon.”
A hedge fund manager who hobnobbed with the rich and famous, Mr. Epstein owned a Caribbean island, homes in Paris and New York, a New Mexico ranch and a fleet of high-price cars.
Mr. Epstein had more than US$112-million worth of equities, according to the will, and nearly US$200-million in “hedge funds & private equity investments.” Among the properties that will be subject to appraisal and valuation are his collection of fine arts, antiques and other collectibles.
As part of his 2008 plea deal to Florida state charges, Mr. Epstein made undisclosed financial settlements with dozens of his victims. It’s unclear how those settlements might affect any claims made on his estate.
William Blum, a lawyer for Mr. Epstein’s estate, said in a statement to The Associated Press that any debts or claims against the estate will be “fairly administered.” He said the document was Mr. Epstein’s original last will.
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