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Ernie Banks: A Classic Case of Undue Influence?

Ernie Banks. bleachernation.com Remembering Ernie Banks.  bleachernation.com

When baseball great Ernie Banks, known to generations of fans as "Mr. Cub," died last month at age 83, the nation was saddened at his passing, and his family mourned. But just six days after Banks' death, on January 29th, his agent and caregiver Regina Rice went to Chicago's Cook County probate court and filed what she claims to be Banks' last will and testament. That document, which Banks signed on October 7th of last year, makes Rice the executor of his estate and assets.

As might be expected, Banks' family is crying foul - they were never informed over such a critical decision until the new will had been filed. In the face of this unwelcome surprise, Banks' two sons, Joey and Jerry, and his fourth wife Elizabeth have sufficient reason for concern. An atmosphere of secrecy - where new documents are signed and assets are transferred - can often be a strong indicator of undue influence in elder abuse cases. And when a non-family member is able to relay the position of caregiver into control of the estate, such a circumstance only works to raise suspicions higher.

At 83, Banks was in declining health and became dependent upon Rice. The veteran athlete may have trusted Rice, his agent of 12 years, but none of this implies a blank check for taking away what would presumably have otherwise gone to his family upon his passing. As son Joey banks stated:

My father was ill at the time she had him sign a will and I believe coerced him to give all of his assets to her... I find it quite interesting that she did not tell anyone that she had an attorney write up a new will.

Privacy in drafting estate documents is one thing, while a non-relative concealing the entire process from immediate family - and standing to benefit from it - is quite another. Regina Rice could be reasonably expected to understand what she was doing and who should have rightfully inherited Ernie Banks' property and financial holdings.

Various details, from Banks' documented intention to divorce his wife to whether his body is to be buried or cremated, will create media attention. However, the bottom line concerns whether a caregiver abused a position of trust for personal gain, and for that there's no excuse.

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