Trusts & Estates
The Brooke Astor Case: “An Appalling Set of Circumstances” An Interview with Expert Witness Alex Forger
Editor’s Note: On October 8, 2009, a New York City jury convicted Anthony Marshall, the 85-year-old son of the late philanthropist Brooke Astor, on 14 of 16 counts for financially exploiting his mother by first- and second-degree grand larceny, scheme to defraud, possession of stolen property, offering a false instrument, and conspiracy. Lawyer Francis Morrissey was convicted of 5 of 6 counts, including conspiracy, scheme to defraud, and forgery. To see the New York Times’ chart specifying charges, allegations, and verdicts against each defendant, visit www.nytimes.com/ imagepages/2009/10/08/nyregion/09astorg.ready.html. Renowned 86-year-old New York lawyer Alex Forger, who practiced trusts and estates (T&E) law for 42 years and chaired the ABA Commission on Law and Aging (COLA) from 1993–1995, testified as an expert witness for three days of the five-month trial. Assistant district attorney Elizabeth Loewy, head of the elder abuse unit in the Manhattan district attorney’s office and one of the case’s three prosecutors, described Forger as “a lion of the bar” and “incredibly generous with his time.” Forger continued his generosity by opining about the lessons that lawyers who represent older persons should learn from this case with COLA Senior Attorney Lori Stiegel. Forger explained how he became involved in the case, why he did it pro bono, how he prepared, and the ways in which Mrs. Astor’s long-standing estate plan was changed by the events in question. This interview was originally published in the December 2009, February 2010, and April 2010 issues of Bifocal, Journal of the ABA COLA. Parts 1 and 2 are combined here and reprinted with permission. Part 3, to be reprinted at a later date, will delve further into the roles of the lawyers involved and provide Forger’s thoughts on how lawyers can protect their clients—and themselves—in similar situations. To access current and past issues of Bifocal or to obtain more information on elder abuse and other topics older persons, visit the COLA Web page at www.abanet.org/aging.