Photo Credit: Marvelfan2017
Earlier this year, I related the story of Stan Lee, the iconic creator of such comic book heroes as the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Fantastic Four. As you may already have heard, Lee passed away recently at the age of 95.
Unfortunately for Lee, the last year of his life was probably not the happy ending we might have all hoped for him. As I noted in my earlier video, Lee had a falling out with his 67-year old daughter, JC, which prompted him to change the terms of his trust. That act, in turn, led to a series of events that turned Lee's final year upside down.
First, a business partner of Lee's daughter became Stan Lee's "Senior Adviser" which allowed him to control Lee's medical and legal matters. That, in turn, started a battle with Stan Lee's road manager and a memorabilia collector named Keya Morgan who was close to Lee.
In this story, however, there appeared to be no good guys. Lawsuits began flying, and drama unfolded at Lee's house as warring factions sought control over Stan Lee's finances, assets, and health. Morgan reportedly changed Lee's phone number, replaced household staff, hired new accountants and attorneys, and took legal steps to keep Lee's daughter away.
Then the pendulum swung the other way in June when Morgan was arrested for making multiple false 911 calls, and a new attorney for Lee sought and received a restraining order against Morgan.
In the end, and after much wrangling in court, Lee's daughter JC took back control of her father's affairs. Perhaps that was one of the better possible outcomes, at least as far as how Stan Lee felt about it.
In cases such as this, we've seen conservatorships work well to protect vulnerable elders like Stan Lee. But the downside of such protection is that family members are often removed from the picture. Frail seniors are sometimes confused or disoriented, and having caregivers they don't know can be unsettling.
You might think that getting input from the senior himself is a reasonable approach, but we know that many seniors are easily manipulated and are prone to say whatever they think is least likely to rock the boat. Sometimes they won't speak out for fear of retribution, and other times they may not truly understand what's happening around them. There's never a perfect solution, so courts and judges do their best to strike a balance.
In one of his final interviews on October 8th, Stan Lee had this to say about the drama of his 95th year, and his daughter's return to look after him: "As far as I'm concerned, we have a wonderful life. I'm pretty damn lucky. I love my daughter, I'm hoping she loves me."
When asked about allegations of elder abuse, Lee quipped: "I wish that everyone would be as abusive to me as JC."
For his sake, I sincerely hope that Stan Lee's final days were happy ones and that he was not a victim of elder financial abuse.
The lesson here for other seniors is to make sure you have legal and financial advisors who are completely trustworthy. In large estates like Stan Lee's, it makes sense to have checks and balances put in place to ensure that no one can exert undue influence at a moment of extreme vulnerability.