Stan Lee, creator of many of the Marvel comic superheroes that drive the most successful summer blockbusters, is in need of a superhero himself. Lee has recently been embroiled in a series of legal and health battles that, taken as a whole, amount to a particularly spectacular form of elder abuse.
Elder Abuse Can Destroy Families
Lee, who is estimated to be worth approximately $60 million (a seemingly modest sum compared to the IP value of his creations, but that's another story), lost his wife of several decades this year. When Joan Lee died of a stroke in July, the troubles began for Lee, who is now 95 years-old. According to sources close to the Lee family, Joan effectively acted not only as Lee's personal guardian but as guardian of his estate and legacy. Her death has opened up the elderly and infirm Lee to what is allegedly a pattern of predatory behavior and abuse by those close to Lee.
The major players fighting over control of Lee and his fortune should be familiar from other legendary battles of succession and inheritance. There are heirs, business managers, caregivers, lawyers, advisors - all scrambling for their piece of the pie. And while few of us have the sort of wealth amassed by a towering figure like Stan Lee, the outlines of the conflict are familiar from every battle over elder abuse in families all across America, from those of modest means to the super wealthy.
Elder Abuse Grows as Baby Boomers Age Out
Elder financial abuse and neglect is a huge and growing problem in the United States, and it is not restricted to the rich. As the wealthiest generation in the history of America (and possibly the world), the Baby Boomers, reach retirement and head into old age, incidences of financial abuse are becoming more and more prevalent. This makes sense; after all, there is more wealth than ever, and more at stake than ever for families trying to figure out where all the assets will go. Add to this the fact that Generation Xers and millenials, the descendents of the Boomer generation, are not having such an easy time of it relative to their parents, and you've got a recipe for disaster.
The federal government has kicked into high gear regarding elder financial abuse. But the best way to prevent it from happening is to take precautions on your own behalf or on behalf of your parents and grandparents. Below are some pointers to get you started, so that as you and your family enter seniordom, you don't end up like Stan Lee - in desperate need of a superhero to save you.
Tips from the Administration on Aging to Prevent Elder Abuse
Get on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls. Visit www.donotcall.gov or call 888.382.1222 to register your phone number.
- Keep in touch with others, isolation can make you more vulnerable.
- Learn how to protect yourself from frauds and scams at www.stopfraud.gov/protect.html.
- Do not send anyone personal information to collect a prize or reward.
- Consult with someone you trust before making a large purchase or investment. Don’t be pressured or intimidated into quick decisions by a salesperson or contractor.
- Don’t sign any documents that you don’t completely understand without first talking it over with an attorney or a family member you trust.
- Do not provide personal information (i.e. Social Security, credit card, ATM PIN number) over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.
- Tear up or shred credit card receipts, bank statements, solicitations and financial records before disposing of them.
- If you hire someone to help you in your home, ensure that they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed. Ask for certifications when appropriate.