I talked earlier about fiduciary duty and the conviction of Anthony D. Marshall, the son of Brooke Astor, on charges that he breached that duty while handling her financial affairs at the end of her life. In a six-month trial, Mr. Marshall was convicted on 14 charges including fraud and financial exploitation. Sentenced to one to three years in prison, Mr. Marshall was incarcerated in June and released on medical parole in August. 

The release of Mr. Marshall was precipitated by equally voluminous pages of health records and letters of support from good friends in high places. According to the New York Times, the only letter of opposition to the medical parole of Mr. Marshall was from the office of the district attorney. 

Financial elder abuse, against the rich or the poor, is a disturbing national trend. Mr. Marshall was convicted of: 

  • Abusing his power of attorney
  • Exploiting the diminished capacity of his mother to defraud her estate and divert funds
  • Theft of possessions and artwork 

The parole hearing focused on the poor medical condition of Mr. Marshall. At 89, he suffers congestive heart failure and Parkinson’s disease. His counsel argued he cannot receive the medical care and daily assistance needed while imprisoned. 

Ironically, the grandson of Brooke Astor, Phillip Marshall, filed suit against his father in 2006, alleging elder abuse of his grandmother, mismanagement of her funds and Anthony Marshall’s failure to provide proper fiduciary support as she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. 

While that case settled with the replacement of Annette de la Renta as guardian for Ms. Astor, Mr. Marshall was convicted later on criminal charges related to actions brought to light by his son. 

Getting old is hard enough without fearing exploitation from family or friends. Mr. Marshall showed no compassion, but received quite a bit, thanks to friends and family money.