Jeffrey Epstein signed a will just two days before he killed himself in jail, new court records show, opening a new legal front in what could be a long battle over the financier’s fortune.
Court papers filed last week in the US Virgin Islands list no details of beneficiaries but valued the estate at more than $577 million (£475 million), including more than $56 million in cash.
The existence of the will, first reported by the New York Post, raised new questions about Epstein’s final days inside the Metropolitan Correctional Centre, where he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Epstein signed the document on August 8. Less than 48 hours later, he was found dead in his cell, prompting an investigation that has cast a harsh light on staffing shortages at the Manhattan detention centre.
Prosecutors on Monday moved to dismiss the indictment against Epstein but have said they are considering charging others with facilitating his alleged abuse of dozens of girls.
The filing of the will, meanwhile, had been closely followed by lawyers representing women who claim they were sexually abused by Epstein when they were teenagers and recruited into his residences to provide him massages.
Epstein had more than $112 million worth of equities, according to the will, and nearly $200 million in "hedge funds & private equity investments." Among the properties that will be subject to appraisal and valuation are his collection of fine arts, antiques and other collectibles.
As part of his 2008 plea deal to Florida state charges, Epstein made undisclosed financial settlements with dozens of his victims. It’s unclear how those settlements might affect any claims made on his estate.
The emergence of the will came as The New York Times released new details about Epstein's final days in Manhattan's high-security Metropolitan Correctional Centre.
Citing sources, the newspaper said he hated his vermin-infested cell so much that he paid for lawyers to meet him for up to 12 hours a day in a different room.
He rarely washed and slept on the floor instead of his bed, they said.
US Attorney General William Barr shook up the leadership at the federal Bureau of Prisons on Monday, removing its acting chief following the suicide of Epstein.
Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, a veteran of the Bureau of Prisons, will return to the agency to serve as its director, Mr Barr said. He named another former agency official, Thomas Kane, to serve as her deputy.
Several lawyers vowed to go after his assets even if the will had named beneficiaries, as Epstein’s death means there will be no trial on the criminal charges against him. One woman filed suit against the estate last week, claiming Epstein repeatedly raped her when she was a teenager.
"Give his entire estate to his victims. It is the only justice they can get," one of those lawyers, Lisa Bloom, wrote in an email. "And they deserve it. And on behalf of the Epstein victims I represent, I intend to fight for it."
Former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein, who is now in private practice in Miami but not involved in the Epstein case, said states and US territories have certain timeframes within which to make a claim against someone’s estate.
"There are certainly going to be a lot of lawyers involved," Weinstein said. "It’s not going to be over any time soon."
A hedge fund manager who hobnobbed with the rich and famous, Epstein owned a Caribbean island, homes in Paris and New York City, a New Mexico ranch and a fleet of high-price cars.