Riverside elder abuse attorney, Dennis Sandoval, has been closely following the fate of Stan Lee, the co-creator of such many legends. Sandoval’s daughter is a big fan, anxiously anticipating the new Marvel movies and religiously listening to his speeches at ComiCon and other events and collecting various memorabilia. Both are sad to see the legend become the center of several legal battles that illustrate just how important proper estate planning can be. As statistics indicate that elder abuse is on the rise in the U.S., stories such as Lee’s are appearing more frequently. If someone as well-known as Stan Lee can potentially become the victim of elder abuse, imagine how easily it can occur to the average senior?
Stan Lee’s Story
Born in 1922, Stan Lee eventually became – by anyone’s definition – an icon in the comic industry. Along with co-creating some of the most well-known comic characters of all time, Lee was also the chairman of Marvel Comics, taking it from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation. According to recent news reports, however, Lee may be the victim of financial elder abuse.
Initially, Mr. Lee signed a power of attorney appointing a former publicist, Jerardo Olivarez, to make financial decisions for him. Mr. Olivarez was involved in negotiations that resulted in the sale of Lee’s business and Mr. Lee signing over exclusive rights to his name, likeness, and image (to the extent not already assigned to Disney through Marvel Entertainment). A lawsuit was filed on Stan Lee’s behalf challenging the deal and accusing Olivarez and others of committing fraud. The lawsuit claims that Mr. Lee never have sold his rights, always wanting to protect his own publicity rights. Another lawsuit accuses Olivarez of additional fraud transactions involving Lee. Olivarez received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Stan Lee. Olivarez claims they were gifts.
Keya Morgan has been acting as the “caregiver” to ninety-five year old since the passing of Mr. Lee’s wife of nearly seventy years, Joan, this past July. In yet another lawsuit, a Los Angeles judge recently granted a temporary restraining order against Mr. Morgan. The petition in support of the order was filed by Tom Lallas, Lee’s former attorney who was abruptly fired last February. The petition against Morgan alleges elder financial abuse, undue influence and the isolation of Stan Lee from friends, relatives and former employees. The judge has also appointed a guardian ad litem for Mr. Lee. It appears that the appointment of a conservator for Mr. Lee will likely follow in the near future.
In the complaint filed by Lallas, he states that there are multiple ongoing criminal investigations regarding potential financial elder abuse against Morgan. A police report attached to the complaint indicates that a detective has observed that Lee has short-term memory impairment and is “heavily influenced” by Morgan. Lallas goes on to say that he himself reached out to law enforcement to conduct a welfare check on Lee after numerous failed attempts to contact him directly following his unexpected termination earlier this year. Lallas goes on to detail the bizarre actions of Morgan. For example, on being denied entry to Lee’s home by a security guard because law enforcement and Adult Protective Services were conducting a private interview with Lee, Morgan allegedly proceeded to make a false call to 911 claiming there were three burglary suspects inside Lee’s home, despite being told that Lee was with detectives. In another instance, Morgan once again made a false call to 911 accusing a security guard of assault with a deadly weapon against himself and Lee after the security guard refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Morgan was arrested for a false report of an emergency on June 11, 2018, and an emergency protective order was issued to protect Lee from him. Lallas further alleges that his own firing came at or around the same time that Morgan took control of Lee’s home on Feb. 15, 2018 and started making household decisions. Morgan allegedly hired a security team to keep out Lee’s family members and others that have helped Lee in the past. More recently, the complaint alleges that on June 8, Morgan moved Lee from his longtime family home to a condominium in what may be another attempt to further isolate him.
Morgan denied the claims against him in a statement to TMZ, stating “I have taken great care of Stan Lee for the past many years, and have never had a problem directly with Stan. I have a fantastic relationship with him for the past many years as he has stated countless times on the record and I literally saved his life once. This is a witch-hunt by his daughter and her lawyer against me because she cannot stand the fact Stan likes me so much.”
How to Prevent Becoming a Victim of Elder Abuse
There is no doubt that we are hearing more stories involving financial elder abuse, as well as all types of elder abuse. One expert suggests that the prevalence could be a result of the aging baby boomer population who have accumulated significant wealth and can no longer independently oversee it. Other experts have pointed to the sheer number of older Americans as another reason for the apparent rise in elder abuse cases. Regardless of the reason, the lesson to be learned is to plan early and plan thoroughly. Accept the very real possibility of your own incapacity and avoid giving any one single person too much power over you or your estate. Instead, talk to your estate planning attorney about safeguards you can include in your estate plan to help prevent becoming the victim of elder abuse.
Contact Riverside Elder Abuse Lawyers
If you have additional questions or concerns about conservatorships or elder abuse in general, contact the experienced Riverside conservatorship attorneys at Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation by calling (951) 888-1460 to schedule an appointment.