Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law

By Lawrence M. Friedman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

ON AUGUST 13, 2007, Brooke Astor, at the ripe old age of 105, died at her estate, Holly Hill, in New York. Brooke was, by all accounts, a warm and winning human being; she was often called New York City's “unofficial first lady.” She was also a very rich lady. She had inherited a massive fortune from her third husband, Vincent Astor. She became well known for her charitable activities; she gave away more than $200 million. Money, she said, “is like manure”; it “should be spread around.” In 1998 the Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded to Brooke Astor.1

But in her last years, ill and demented, she sank into the dim world of those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Her one son, Anthony Marshall, acted as her guardian, managing her affairs. His management, however, had somewhat scandalous results. Marshall's own son, Phillip, accused him of abusing the old lady and pillaging her estate. Anthony, it was claimed, lined his own pockets, while Brooke Astor slept on a couch that smelled of urine and lived on pureed peas and oatmeal; her beloved dogs, Boysie and Girlsie, were locked in a pantry. The court removed Anthony from his position of trust. The court named Annette de la Renta, an old friend, as guardian of the person—in charge of Brooke Astor's life and health; a bank became guardian of the estate—in charge of her

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Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Distribution After Death 15
  • Chapter 3 - The Last Will and Testament 58
  • Chapter 4 - Breaking a Will 82
  • Chapter 5 - Will Substitutes 100
  • Chapter 6 - Dynastic and Caretaker Trusts 111
  • Chapter 7 - Control by the Dead and Its Limits 125
  • Chapter 8 - Charitable Gifts and Foundations 140
  • Chapter 9 - Death and Taxes 171
  • Chapter 10 - Conclusions 179
  • Notes 185
  • Index 217
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