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Inside the battle over Jeffrey Epstein’s assets

Anastasia Santoreneos
Who will have a claim to Jeffrey Epstein's estate? Source: Forbes/Getty
Who will have a claim to Jeffrey Epstein's estate? Source: Forbes/Getty

Following millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death in custody, questions have been raised over who has a claim to his estate.

US federal prosecutors said in a court filing that Epstein was worth at least US$500 million (AU$740 million), and brought in more than US$10 million in annual income, NY Mag reported.

Aside from his fortune, the accused child-sex trafficker also owned a seven-story US$77 million Upper East Side mansion.

On top of that, Epstein owned a private island called Little St. James in the Caribbean, previously valued at US$12 million, and homes in Palm Beach, Paris and New Mexico.

But despite having an extensive fortune, no wills were immediately filed in the aftermath of Epstein’s death, court clerks told NY Daily News.

Do Jeffrey Epstein’s victims have a claim?

Now that Epstein is dead, criminal proceedings have closed.

But, federal prosecutors have previously indicated their intention to seize any of Epstein’s properties where he allegedly sexually abused minors, and could potentially do so through a civil-forfeiture case.

This type of asset-freeze is a legal process that allows law enforcement officers to take assets from persons accused of crimes without charging the owners with any wrongdoing.

The Miami Herald said if a civil forfeiture is filed, a federal judge in a civil court would make a decision based on the prosecution’s recount of Epstein’s crimes, but using a lower threshold than what’s used to determine guilt in criminal cases.

“Prosecutors would have to present compelling evidence that each asset to be seized was connected to criminal activity,” they said.

Epstein’s accusers themselves could file civil suits, and the lawyers representing several of the women who allege abuse by Epstein have indicated their intention to do so.

“I am calling today for the administrators of Jeffrey Epstein’s estate to freeze all his assets and hold them for his victims who are filing civil cases. Their lives have been shattered by his sexual assaults, their careers derailed. They deserve full and fair compensation NOW,” prosecutor Lisa Bloom tweeted.

But federal prosecutors acknowledge this could be complicated and drawn out.

Who else has a claim to Jeffrey Epstein’s estate?

Epstein has no wife or children, and both of his parents are deceased.

But, he has one surviving close relative, his brother Mark Epstein, a New York real estate developer, who could have a legitimate claim to Epstein’s assets.

In the past, Epstein has also given large sums of money to charity, including US$2 million to Harvard University.

A former federal prosecutor, Joe DeMaria told the Miami Herald the first step is to read Epstein’s will.

“If he bequeathed all of his assets to charities or scientific foundations, that may be a better way,” DeMaria said.

“To make good use of the money would be to determine if one of those charities would use the funds to study the prevention of this kind of abuse in the future.”

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