By Jeff Rivard
Nobody plans on being isolated and vulnerable. But unfortunately all too many elders in Connecticut face that phenomenon every day. The sad circumstances of 95-year-old Stan Lee, the legendary creator of Spider Man, Iron Man, and hundreds of other beloved comic book heroes and villains, can serve an illustration of the kind of issues faced by many of our older clients.
Mr. Lee had a long, prolific career as a writer, editor, film producer, and publisher. He also served for many years as the editor-in-chief and publisher of Marvel Comics. Thanks to his professional success, Mr. Lee’s wealth is currently estimated at approximately $50 million.
But our story really begins in July 2017 when Stan lost his wife Joan, of 69 years, due to complications from a stroke.
Soon after losing Joan, Stan’s troubles began. There were many questionable transactions that took place: a $300,000 check written from Stan’s business account without his knowledge to a merchandising company run by a former business associate, the purchase of an $850,000 condo, and another $1.4 million that disappeared in a complicated wire transfer transaction.
A quote by an unnamed source familiar with the Lees flatly declared “it’s a real…mess over there. I think his money will be gone in a few weeks.”
One of the main figures amongst a cast of suspicious characters is Jerry Olivarez, the business associate named above. Olivarez was apparently able to gain power of attorney of Stan for a brief period of time after Joan’s death. And now a team of forensic accountants has been busy poring over a thousand pages of documents trying to trace Olivarez’s financial misdeeds through Stan’s various trusts and corporate entities.
Perhaps things are now starting to take a turn for the better for Stan. Just this past month a Los Angeles Superior Court arrested and issued a temporary restraining order against Keya Morgan, a man who has claimed to be Stan’s caregiver. Court papers filed by an attorney now serving as Stan’s guardian, argued that Mr. Morgan is unduly influencing and isolating Mr. Lee. Morgan in turn has vigorously denied the allegations against him, depicting himself as a dedicated and selfless caregiver who has taken care of Stan for years.
Are there lessons we can learn from Stan Lee’s situation?
In our Connecticut estate planning practice, most clients come to us convinced that their Will is the most important document in their estate planning. And we concur everyone should have a Will that directs who will inherit their assets after death. But in our opinion, it is crucial and indeed even MORE important that your estate planning provides adequate protections in the event of your own disability or decline in health.
Disability and decline in physical or mental health are not rare occurrences affecting few individuals – rather, it is something we ALL need to anticipate and plan for.
And although we can work with you to draft effective and comprehensive documents to provide oversight over your financial affairs and your personal and health care needs, the most important decisions are in your hands. That is, it is up to you to name the right people to act on your behalf, people you trust implicitly and who you can be confident will act both wisely and effectively. And the best time to make those decisions and to execute those crucial estate planning documents is long before you become vulnerable and can no longer act for yourself.
If you do not have a person you can trust implicitly or you’d rather not involve family, you can name a Connecticut estate planning attorney as your executor or trustee. We act as executor and trustee for many Connecticut residents who’d rather have the security and comfort of knowing their estate is in the care of trusted and experienced professionals.
If you’re worried that someone you know is being taken advantage of, call us immediately.