Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Brooke Astor's Amazingly Lucky Lawyer

A few years ago, Brooke Astor, now age 104, decided to change lawyers, possibly at the suggestion of her son, Anthony Marshall. She discharged the august firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, who had handled her affairs for 40 years, and engaged Francis Morrissey.

Francis Morrissey has been a very, very lucky fellow. According to The New York Daily News, elderly people are dying to leave him significant shares of their estates.

Around the time Morrissey started advising Astor, he was left an apartment in Manhattan by one client. (After charges of undue influence, an undisclosed settlement was reached.) That was just one example of his extraordinary luck. The Daily News reports that several people wanted him on their list of beneficiaries.
Alexandra Gregersen, a psychiatrist, who died on Jan. 4, 2001, at age 90. Morrissey inherited two-fifths of her estate.

Elizabeth Von Knapitsch, a retired ladies apparel executive, who died at age 91 on Jan. 15, 2000. Morrissey inherited her Park Ave. apartment, two Renoir oil paintings, two other paintings, and an undisclosed amount of money.

Jay Lovestone, a labor leader who helped found the Communist Party of America, and worked with the CIA, died on March 7, 1990, at the age of 90. Morrissey inherited one-third of his estate.

Louise Morris, a housewife, who died on Oct. 22, 2002, at age 98. Morrissey received one-third of her estate.
Morrissey also serves as “primary contact” and, reportedly, a director for the Shepherd Community Foundation. Another director, a lawyer for Marshall told The New York Times, is Marshall's wife. As the Times puts it, An In-Law’s Charity Has One Donor, Astor, and Few Details.

From Kermit the frog we learned that it's not easy being green. From Brooke Astor we're learning that being very old and rich is no piece of cake, either.

Update: In Rich, Old, Unloved, Marketwatch points a moral: Wealthy oldsters need a system of checks and balances to protect them. How to meet that need? A trust institution:

“Impartiality no longer connotes uncaring. That, it seems, more and more, is left to relatives.

“Sadly, institutions may be better caretakers of money and health care than friends and family.”

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