Many people in Nevada may be aware of the Jeffrey Epstein case, in which the wealthy financier committed suicide in a New York jail where he was facing trial on sex trafficking charges. Epstein prepared a will and a trust two days before his August 10 death, but there are a number of questions hanging over his estate. With a value of over $577 million, it is well above the estate and gift tax exemption of $11.4 million.
First, the timing of the when the will and the trust were prepared may raise concerns. However, one of the biggest problems may be that his alleged victims might sue the estate. Having assets in a trust may not offer protection. It would need to be an irrevocable trust to protect assets from creditors, and even irrevocable trusts are not immune to challenges. If a person expects lawsuits and tries to create a trust to protect assets from those lawsuits, this is generally considered fraudulent behavior.
States might also be looking at where Epstein was resident. Although his official residence is the U.S. Virgin Islands, determining domicile is a complex process that involves looking at a number of things including where a person’s belongings and family are. A state such as New York might decide to pursue his estate for tax.
It is not necessary for people to have the wealth of Epstein to require an estate plan. Every adult should create one. A will is not just useful for passing on assets. For parents, a will can be used to appoint a guardian for minor children. A will must pass through the probate process, which can take some time and is not private. As a result, some people prefer to use a trust as their main estate planning vehicle.