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The Avengers and Elder Abuse

Stan Lee, by all accounts, had a fantastic life.  He joined Timely Comics in 1939 as an office assistant.  By the early ‘60s, Timely Comics had become Marvel Comics and Lee introduced the Fantastic Four to the world.  A year later, Spider-Man.  Lee’s creativity kept going throughout the years, and we welcomed The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men, Iron Man, and more. 

Lee was an innovator in the world of comics.  He collaborated with the artists when making the story line.  This allowed for quick and collective work.  But most notably, he paired his superheroes with some human traits – insecurities, emotions, and faults.  This revolutionized the way superheroes were perceived and made superheroes more relatable to a wider audience.

Lee and his wife shared 70 years of marriage.  He lost her in 2017.  After her death, Lee’s health began to decline.  In 2018, The Hollywood Reporter published a story indicating that things had taken a turn for the worse. Lee’s daughter, J.C., was allegedly causing strife within the family and trying to control the care of the 95-year-old Lee and his estate.  The piece also accused J.C. of elder abuse, and described an episode in which she physically assaulted her elderly parents.  Lee came out and publicly denied any abuse at the hands of his daughter and was quoted as saying “There really isn’t that much drama.  As far as I’m concerned, we have a wonderful life.”

However, Lee stated that his former business partners, Shane Duffy and Gill Champion, exploited him.  Lee was grieving the loss of his wife and claimed the two “prayed on his infirmities while he was in a state of disrepair.”

Lee died in November of 2018.

A few days ago, on May 14, 2019, another account of elder abuse came to light.  And this time, charges have been filed.  Keya Morgan, Lee’s former business manager, has been charged with five counts of elder abuse, including forgery, fraud, and false imprisonment. 

Morgan, through his attorney, issued a statement denying all accounts and maintaining his innocence. 

Stan Lee was a brilliant man.  He was wealthy and well-loved.  These accounts highlight the fact that elder abuse does not discriminate.  Anyone, from any walk of life, can fall victim to elder abuse. 

Elder abuse is any intentional act to harm an elder.
Here are five signs to watch out for:

  1. Physical abuse: Cuts, bruises, burns. Does the elder seem scared of “making their caregiver mad?”
  2. Sexual abuse: Pelvic injuries, torn underwear, panic attacks, engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct.
  3. Financial abuse: Sudden changes in finances or estate planning documents, missing belongings, isolation from friends or family, unpaid bills.
  4. Neglect: Bedsores, poor hygiene, weight loss, lice, untreated medical conditions.
  5. Mental/emotional/psychological: depression: Elder is withdrawn, low self-esteem, caregiver making derogatory comments to elder, elder agitated in the presence of the abuser. 

Elders are oftentimes more vulnerable to abuse because they rely on others for care.  The elder may not report abuse because they feel foolish, don’t want to get their loved one in trouble, or don’t want to be “put in a home”. 

Caregiving is a difficult role and one that is oftentimes taken on by family members.  Caregivers can get burned out and need a break.  If you have a caregiver in your family, maybe you could ask them if they need help or give them a day off.  Step up to see how you can make a positive difference. 

As an elder law attorney, you work closely with elderly and their loved ones. It is critical to be aware of these signs of elder abuse and to take steps to protect vulnerable clients and help those who may be victims. Our recorded course "Legal Strategies for Resolving Elder Financial Abuse" goes into more detail regarding red flags of exploitation and tips for advance planning and prevention.



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