Stan Lee, co-creator of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four, could have used a superhero towards the end of his life. Multiple lawsuits alleging fraud and elder abuse have been filed in California as a small group of former advisors and his only child scrambled to tap into Lee’s massive fortune, according to a recent AARP article.*
Lee, who suffered from macular degeneration, amassed a fortune estimated to be as high as $80 million. The public has had glimpses of Lee’s abuse since his wife, Joanie, died in 2017. During her lifetime, she oversaw business matters as well as the family finances and took care of most of Lee’s personal matters. Stan and Joanie Lee took specific care to keep their daughter, J.C., out of their financial affairs. The Lees had always worried about J.C.’s stability – she couldn’t hold a job and liked to spend money. They even created a trust for her benefit, fearful she would “blow through an inheritance and end up living in her car.”
Unfortunately, their predictions about J.C. proved to be true. She allegedly played a central role in her father’s abuse toward the end of his life. She “tangled herself up financially and emotionally with a trio of men who had shady pasts and were later accused of chiseling away at the family fortune.” Between 2008 and Lee’s death in 2018, these three people inserted themselves into Lee’s life, “befriending him and his daughter and offering support, counsel and business ideas, but ultimately enriching themselves through their connection.” By February 2018, Lee had been separated from his accountants, his attorney, and his assistant of 25 years. His locks and phone numbers were changed, and all of his emails were monitored.
Unfortunately, as is often true of celebrities, evidence of his abuse was in plain sight. Within a year after Joanie’s death, Lee attended Comic Con in April 2018. A video captured at the event reveals a physically deteriorating Lee who was nearly unable to speak coherently. His “handlers” collected $120 for each signature as they reminded Lee how to spell his name.
Lee’s legacy is now subject to a Los Angeles County Court. All three co-conspirators have turned on one another, pointing fingers and trying to absolve themselves in criminal and civil cases. Although the father of superheroes, Lee ultimately may have been the victim of elder abuse, as are nearly one on 10 Americans over age 60.
What elder law attorneys know more than anyone else is that elder abuse cases are difficult to litigate. Getting local police involved in stopping the abuse as it occurs is even more challenging.
Weinberg Elder Law, LLC can help you choose the legal options that provide the most appropriate protections for the seniors you love, including guardianships and conservatorships. If you would like to speak with an attorney, please leave a message on our website, www.WeinbergElderLaw.com, send an email to Cheryl@WeinbergElderLaw.com, or call us directly at 404-969-5648.
*Hockman, David. (October/November 2020) “The Last Days of Stan Lee.” AARP The Magazine. https://www.aarp.org/entertainment/celebrities/info-2020/stan-lee-elder-abuse.html