Jeffrey Epstein’s death last week in a Manhattan jail cell has complicated the path for victims of the wealthy financier seeking to recover from his estate, unleashing a slew of questions about where his assets are and who stands to inherit his millions.
In addition to criminal charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy, Epstein was also facing the prospect of numerous civil suits from his accusers, when he was found dead early Saturday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, apparently by suicide.
Epstein’s death brought a sudden and unexpected close to the criminal case against him, and came as a blow to his accusers, who had hoped to confront their alleged abuser in court. Attorneys for the victims, however, have nonetheless vowed to move ahead with civil suits against Epstein’s estate, the exact details of which appear to be shrouded in mystery.
It was not immediately clear if Epstein, who had no spouse or known children, left a will appointing anyone to oversee his estate. What’s also unclear is the total value of his assets and whether they were held in offshore accounts or trusts.
Had Epstein lived, the federal government could have started a restitution action to seize his assets for victims. Jennifer Freeman of the Marsh Law Firm said now that would have to be done through a civil forfeiture lawsuit, which presented its own complications, given that “things have shifted” since Epstein’s death.
“The question is can you bring an action still in New York state court,” she said. “The question is against whom.”
As of Wednesday morning, at least one such case had been against Epstein’s estate, though many more were expected in the coming days and weeks.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” Freeman said.
“This could be a Dickensian novel.”