Astor’s Son’s Inheritance Cut in Half in Estate Accord

The inheritance of Brooke Astor’s son was cut by more than half in a settlement over the philanthropist’s estate that provides $100 million to charities, according to the New York attorney general’s office.

The settlement ends a five-year dispute over Astor’s will, and includes a $30 million fund that will make grants to improve education in New York City, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said today in a statement. Manhattan’s Central Park, the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are among those also receiving funds, the state said.

Astor, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, died in 2007 at the age of 105. She was the last of the American branch of the Astors, a family whose financial and social prestige was once synonymous with the wealth and power of the Rockefellers and the Morgans. The family’s holdings at various times included the St. Regis Hotel, the Empire State Building’s site and Newsweek magazine.

Anthony Marshall, her son, was convicted in 2009 of defrauding his mother by having her change her will when she was incompetent to do so. Marshall, 87, was sentenced to one to three years in prison. He remains free on bail pending appeal of the conviction, according to his attorney Ken Warner.

“Mr. Marshall is pleased that a settlement has been reached,” Warner said in a statement. “He is almost 88 years old, and much prefers closure to an expensive and protracted litigation over his mother’s estate.”

Son’s $14.5 Million

The settlement payment to Marshall cuts his inheritance to $14.5 million, less than half of the approximately $31 million that he stood to receive under Astor’s most recent will, Schneiderman said. Marshall and his wife will relinquish all rights the will gave them to select charities that would benefit from Astor’s estate. The settlement is binding on Marshall regardless of the outcome of the criminal case, according to the attorney general.

Marshall was accused of taking advantage of his mother partly by trying to obtain millions of dollars she intended for charities. He was motivated by fear that his wife, Charlene, wouldn’t be left with enough money when he died, prosecutors said. Astor, who didn’t like her son’s wife, left her only coats and jewelry, they said.

The settlement “honors Mrs. Astor’s final wishes and benefits New York’s landmark educational and cultural institutions,” Schneiderman said in the statement.

Library Gift

The gift to the New York Public Library will be used for reading and literacy programs for children, research and branch libraries and the creation of a room in the names of James Lenox and John Jacob Astor.

Astor’s dedication to the library as a trustee transformed the institution in “lasting ways,” and the settlement means her legacy as a supporter of the library can continue as she intended, the library president, Anthony Marx, said in the statement.

“We are immensely grateful that her charitable intentions will be honored and her dreams for the library can be realized,” he said.

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