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Whilst sitting in a cell on sex-trafficking charges, Jeffrey Epstein signed a new Will only two days before his death. Epstein reportedly left all of his estate – worth more than US$577 million – to a private trust (named the 1953 Trust, after the year of his birth). Clearly there are suspicions this was done in an attempt to hide money or make it more difficult to claim damages for the women who say he abused them when they were teenagers.

Epstein has no wife or known children, and is said to have listed his brother as single heir. The use of a private trust means that the details of his beneficiaries are not released to the public.

On Epstein’s death, all criminal prosecutions for sex trafficking and conspiracy charges were dismissed. However, his alleged victims are able to pursue civil claims against his estate for damages. By leaving his fortune to the 1953 Trust, the process for alleged victims to receive damages has become more difficult, as it will need to be determined whether trust assets are part of the estate which damages can be claimed. It may also be pursued that the transfer of assets into the trust is a fraudulent transfer as Epstein was facing criminal charges at the time of his death.

The death of Jeffrey Epstein raises many questions for his accusers, the US penal system and the community more broadly by its failure to see what he was doing to young women over so many years. Whilst it is unclear whether the transfer of the assets to the trust was or will be effective, it is going to be a long legal battle for his alleged sexual abuse victims.

This article was co-authored by Law Cadet, Meg Behl-Shanks.

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