Elder Abuse

Stan Lee’s Former Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

District Attorney of Los Angeles County Jackie Lacey has leveled elder abuse charges against Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan.

Lee, the creator of Spiderman, the Black Panther, and other comic book heroes.

MSN’s recent article, “Stan Lee’s Ex-Manager Hit With Elder Abuse Charges; Arrest Warrant Issued” reports that Morgan is facing one felony count of false imprisonment of an elder adult, three felony counts of theft, embezzlement, and forgery or fraud against an elder adult, as well as the initial elder abuse misdemeanor count.

Morgan took control of Lee’s business affairs and personal life in February 2018. Lee, the creator of Spiderman, the Black Panther, and other comic book heroes, had assets of more than $50 million in the last years of his life. Lee passed away on November 12, 2018. Morgan is said to have isolated his client from family and friends. Morgan also embezzled or misappropriated $5 million of assets, according to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2018.

The five counts of elder abuse filed on May 10 could put Morgan in prison for 10 years, if he’s found guilty.

The public first learned of the troublesome relationship between Morgan and Lee last summer, when the then 95-year old Marvel comic book legend sought a restraining order against his ex-aide over elder abuse. The request was made just three days after Lee put out a June 10, 2018 video on social media insisting that he and Morgan were working “together and are conquering the world side-by-side.”

Because of the video and the elder abuse filing, Lee’s financial advisor was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department on suspicion of filing a false police report, allegedly concerning a supposed break-in incident at Lee’s residence.

A three-year restraining order against Morgan was granted by a county judge last August. He was found guilty of the false police report misdemeanor charge in April 2019 and was ordered to stay away from Lee’s family and residence among other conditions.

After years of making cameos in all the Marvel blockbuster movies, Lee’s last appearance was in the record smashing Avengers: Endgame, which was released last month.

Reference: MSN (May 15, 2019) “Stan Lee’s Ex-Manager Hit With Elder Abuse Charges; Arrest Warrant Issued”

How are Financial Advisors Trying to Prevent Financial Exploitation?

The next time you see your financial adviser, you may be asked to provide a trusted point of contact, such as a relative or friend to call, if the adviser has a reasonable belief that you might be a victim of financial exploitation.

St. Petersburg Estate Planning
Financial advisors are working hard to prevent clients from falling prey to financial exploitation

Kiplinger’s recent article, “New Rules Battle Financial Scams, Elder Abuse” says that your adviser could place a temporary hold on a suspicious disbursement request from you, so your money is protected until the concern is investigated. Once money has left an account, it’s hard to get it back.

Changes include several new laws that protect seniors and their money. For older adults, financial exploitation is a growing problem. One in five older Americans are the victim of financial exploitation each year, resulting in the loss of $3 billion annually.

Mild cognitive impairment can result in older adults not seeing red flags for fraud, says Michael Pieciak, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), which represents state securities regulators. The ability to judge risk may be diminished. He noted that social isolation plays a part, with vulnerable seniors home during the day and apt to answer the phone when a fraudster calls.

Federal and state lawmakers, along with the financial services industry, have initiated new rules to help safeguard seniors and their assets. The idea is that financial institutions and professionals are on the front lines of spotting elder financial abuse. The changes are designed to protect seniors and to shield financial professionals from liability for reporting possible exploitation.

Congress passed the Senior Safe Act in 2018. This law protects financial services professionals from being sued over privacy and other violations for reporting suspected elder financial abuse to law enforcement, provided they’ve been trained. If a bank teller notices that a senior seems confused about withdrawing money or making puzzling transactions, the teller could tell a superior, who could contact authorities, if necessary.

Nineteen states have enacted some version of a NASAA model act that provides registered investment advisers and broker-dealers with guidance on telling a trusted point of contact and putting a temporary hold on a client’s account to investigate financial fraud.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 3, 2019) “New Rules Battle Financial Scams, Elder Abuse”

The Latest on Florida’s Attempt to Create an Online Notary Law

The Florida legislature is giving consideration to HB 409, which would make signing estate planning documents, like a will or power of attorney, more convenient. Some have expressed concerns that greater convenience could lead to more fraud, especially for the elderly.

Florida’s proposed law had pros and cons.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports in the story “Florida may allow legal papers to be notarized online” that the legislation was proposed by Representative Daniel Perez, R-Miami. The bill moved Tuesday through the House transportation and tourism appropriations subcommittee and will be considered next in the Judiciary Committee—the last step before a House vote. However, a Senate version hasn’t made as much progress.

Representative Perez remarked that he’d recently traveled to Colombia and realized as he boarded his flight, that he’d failed to assign power of attorney to his in-laws. The requirement that he appear in person before a Florida-commissioned notary made it impossible to fix his oversight, he said.

The notary bill has made it past attempts by two Democrats that would’ve limited its scope. Representative Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens, compared the risks of fraud under the system to college students who buy fake IDs to illegally drink alcohol. She proposed requiring notary witnesses to be in the same place physically, as whoever is signing legal documents.

“When we have no one tangibly looking at this information, not having it in their hands for close inspection to verify its validity, we’re in trouble,” Watson said.

Representative Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, said allowing wills and powers of attorney to be created online was dangerous for Florida’s elderly. He said lawmakers need to balance between better business and protecting older residents.

“I have a concern about someone going into a nursing home with an iPad and walking room to room and getting people to click buttons and then they get a couple of powers of attorney,” Diamond said.

Perez responded that it was possible for criminals to take advantage of elderly people, even with the current notary requirements.

Attorneys are split. Lawyers from the Florida Bar’s Real Property Probate and Trust Law section said the proposal puts the elderly at greater risk of fraud, but those in the Elder Law section said the online services will make it easier for Florida’s older population to plan estates.

Reference: San Francisco Chronicle (March 27, 2019) “Florida may allow legal papers to be notarized online”

Be Careful Granting Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney abuse has emerged as a serious problem for elderly people who are vulnerable to people they trust more than they should, reports the Sandusky Register in the article “Consumer beware: Understanding the powers of a Power of Attorney” The same is true for a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care document, which should be of great concern for seniors and their family members.

Care should be taken when choosing an agent to act in your behalf

This illustrates the importance of a Power of Attorney document: the person, also known as the “principal,” is giving the authority to act on their behalf in all financial and personal affairs to another person, known as their “agent.” That means the agent is empowered to do anything and everything the person themselves would do, from making withdrawals from a bank account, to selling a home or a car or more mundane acts, such as paying bills and filing taxes.

The problem is that there is nothing to stop someone, once they have Power of Attorney, from taking advantage of the situation. No one is watching out for the person’s best interests, to make sure bank accounts aren’t drained or assets sold. The agent can abuse that financial power to the detriment of the senior and to benefit the agent themselves. It is a crime when it happens. However, this is what often occurs: seniors are so embarrassed that they gave this power to someone they thought they could trust, that they are reluctant to report the crime.

Similarly, an unchecked Health Care Power of Attorney can lead to abuse, if the wrong person is named.

The following is a real example of how this can go wrong. An adult child arranged for their trusting parent to be diagnosed as suffering from dementia by an unscrupulous psychiatrist, when the parent did not have dementia.

The adult child then had the parent admitted into a nursing home, misrepresenting the admission as a temporary stay for rehabilitation. They then kept the parent in the nursing home, using the dementia diagnosis as a reason for her to remain in the nursing home.

The parent had to hire an attorney and prove to the court that she was competent and able to live independently, to be able to return to her home.

Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your situation and figure out who might become named as Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of attorney on your behalf. The attorney will be able to help you make sure that your estate plan, including your will, is properly prepared and discuss with you the best options for these important decisions.

Reference: Sandusky Register (Feb. 5, 2019) “Consumer beware: Understanding the powers of a Power of Attorney”

Suggested Key Terms: Power of Attorney, Health Care, Principal, Agent, Elder Abuse, Estate Planning Attorney,

Choose Power of Attorney Agents Wisely

For nearly four years, John Jerome O’Hara took charge of his mother’s care at a Kentucky nursing home. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

O’Hara gained power of attorney over her affairs in June 2014. He was expected to manage thousands of dollars in income a month. In addition, O’Hara was supposed to use that income for his mom’s living expenses at Wesley Manor in Louisville.

However, reports The Washington Post in the article “He had power of attorney over his Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother—and stole $332,000, grand jury says,” for nearly four years, O’Hara robbed his mother instead. The charges contained 18 counts—ten of bank fraud, four of wire fraud and four of “access device fraud.”

The charges carry a maximum of several lifetimes in prison, the indictment said.

Each bank fraud count carries a maximum of 30 years in prison. In addition, there’s the potential for hefty fines and restitution.

O’Hara took the funds, in part, by writing checks to himself, according to the indictment.

He also wrote checks out to cash or signed “POA” for power of attorney. He withdrew money from her bank accounts to use for his expenses, prosecutors allege.

O’Hara’s alleged theft left a trail of financial distress, which was clear to investigators. Most significantly, he failed to pay his mother’s living expenses, the indictment said. This forced other family members to pay more than $100,000 to keep her cared for at the nursing home.

In addition, O’Hara left other obligations unpaid. He missed mortgage payments at his mother’s home in Lexington, the indictment said, and the home was foreclosed in March, as a result.

Reference: The Washington Post (December 9, 2018) “He had power of attorney over his Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother—and stole $332,000, grand jury says”

Spiderman Creator Stan Lee’s Estate Needs Untangling

It’s going to take more than a super hero to unravel the mess that Stan Lee left behind.

The passing of Stan Lee, famed Marvel Comics publisher and chairman, was sad for his legions of fans. For his 68-year-old daughter J.C., there’s grief and a challenging estate to be settled. His last years were hard, with ill health, the passing of his wife of nearly 70 years and accusations of sexual harassment from nurses and home aides.

Stan-leeIn addition, Lee reportedly said that $1.4 million dollars was missing from his bank accounts and that a large chunk of the money had been used to purchase a condo.

MarketWatch’srecent article, “Stan Lee’s tangled web of estate planning and how to avoid it in your own life,”reports that Lee had also hired and fired several business managers and attorneys in this time.

“I learned later on in life, you need advisors, if you’re making any money at all,” he told the Daily Beastin a 2018 interview. He also remarked that he’d done much of his own money management at the start of his career.

“But then, a little money started coming in, and I realized I needed help. And I needed people I could trust. And I had made some big mistakes. And my first bunch of people were people that I shouldn’t have trusted.”

It’s not known at this point, if Lee had a will or any trusts in place. If he did not, then he’s joining other late celebrities like performers Aretha Franklin and Prince who failed to draft these documents. As a result, their heirs and potential beneficiaries have had to go to court to straighten things out.

Keeping track of an estate plan can become harder as a person ages, because he or she could suffer cognitive decline, or a professional or family member may think he or she is suffering from this. Stan Lee was the subject of this type of inquiry: in February, he signed a document declaring that his daughter spent too much money, yelled at him, and befriended three men who wanted to take advantage of him, the Hollywood Reporterreported. However, a few days later, Lee took it back.

Seniors can become get less confident in what they’re doing, and they are more susceptible to the influence of others who may not have the best of intentions. However, you can easily create an estate plan with which you’re comfortable, with the help of an experienced estate panning attorney.

A big rat’s nest that will need to be addressed by Lee’s daughter will be dealing with the many business documents that may be floating around from his current and past business managers and attorneys. To avoid this, work with an estate planning attorney and ask some specific questions, such as:

  • How do we organize and simplify my assets?
  • Will we need a trust, and how will they be managed?
  • How will you coordinate with my executor and/or attorney-in-fact while I’m well, and after I’m sick or gone?
  • How do you determine cognitive decline in an individual? What would you do, if you believed my ability to answer questions and manage my funds was diminished? What would you do once you’ve made this decision?
  • How often will we review my beneficiary designations and estate planning documents?
  • How should we coordinate a team of financial and legal professionals to make sure all are working towards the same goals?
  • How much or how little information about my estate should be discussed with family members?

Reference: MarketWatch(November 17, 2018) “Stan Lee’s tangled web of estate planning and how to avoid it in your own life”

Family Members Charged with Felony Theft for Allegedly Stealing from Father

This is a sad reminder that much elder financial abuse takes place at the hands of family members. In this case, a son and daughter-in-law have been charged with taking more than $150,000 from the 86-year-old father.

Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick says that the fourth largest financial case since 2004 is now underway, reports Fox 43 in“Son charged for stealing $153,168 from 86-year-old father, officials talk elder abuse warning signs.” Chester Robert Garman III and his wife Kathy Alice Garman have been charged with felony theft and access device fraud for allegedly stealing from the man’s father over the course of four years.

MP900202201Dauphin County officials are using this elder financial abuse case as a reminder for the public to monitor those 60 and older for signs of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.

Reports of elder abuse in the Pennsylvania county continue to rise every year. Thus far in 2018, county officials have received more than 1,600 reports of elder abuse.

"In Dauphin County we want to make it clear that if there are suspected abuses occurring, we will take actions," said Hartwick. "We are communicating, and we will do everything to make sure we are protecting out seniors and bring those individuals who perpetrate those crimes to justice."

It’s not uncommon in elder abuse cases—such as the Garman's—for a person familiar to the victim to be the bad actor, someone they know and trust. The Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging says there are many signs of abuse. If a person sees anything they think is questionable, they should call the authorities.

Elder abuse can come in many types:

  • Physical elder abuse: the non-accidental use of force against an elderly person that results in physical pain, injury or impairment;
  • Emotional elder abuse: causing the senior emotional or psychological pain or distress, like intimidation through yelling or threats and isolation;
  • Sexual elder abuse: contact with an elderly person without their consent;
  • Elder neglect or failing to fulfill a caretaking obligation;
  • Financial exploitation: unauthorized use of an individual’s personal funds or property; and
  • Healthcare fraud and abuse by unethical doctors, nurses, and other professional care providers.

The County’s District Attorney advises families to have a power of attorney put in place, especially if there is a caregiver who has access to the senior’s financial assets. The power of attorney provides a clear delineation of what the obligations are of the caregiver to the person receiving the care.

Reference: Fox 43 (October 22, 2018) “Son charged for stealing $153,168 from 86-year-old father, officials talk elder abuse warning signs”

Ohio Expands Mandatory Reporters of Elder Abuse

It makes sense that the people who come in contact with the elderly about their health and property be required to report any kind of elder abuse. After all, they are on the front lines where abuse often occurs.

Ohio has expanded the number of professionals who are now required to report elder abuse, adding bank employees, financial planners and notary publics, who you might expect to be on the list, as well as pharmacists, dialysis technicians, firefighters, first responders, building inspectors, CPAs and real estate agents.

MP900383004Their ability to spot issues from many different perspectives, increases the chances that more cases of elder abuse will be reported and addressed.

The Dayton Daily News’recent article, “This new law means many more Ohio officials are watching out for elder abuse. Here’s why it was passed,”explains that elder abuse can include exploiting another person’s resources; physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; or neglecting to meet a person’s basic needs. There were more than 16,000 reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of Ohio adults aged 60 and older in 2017. However, only one in 14 cases is reported, according to National Institutes of Health estimates.

“This expansion of mandatory reporters will help us in our goal of protecting our vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors from harm,” said Cynthia Dungey, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which supervises Ohio’s Adult Protective Services program.

Financial institutions are one of the main places where exploitation can be recognized. Officials are educating tellers to identify the signs, such as an older customer appearing confused or distant or withdrawing unusual amounts of money.

Other signals of elder abuse can include seniors living in isolation, missing appointments, appearing frightened or avoiding specific people.

Whenever there is a dramatic change in behavior patterns, including a withdrawal from their usual activities, a change in mood or temperament or flinching at any kind of physical contact, elder abuse may be occurring.

Elder abuse risks increase when poverty, declining health, dementia, domestic violence or other traumatic events are present. The elderly person with no family, support system or access to community services is more likely to become a victim.

Reference: Dayton Daily News (September 29, 2018) “This new law means many more Ohio officials are watching out for elder abuse. Here’s why it was passed.”

LOVE Artist’s Estate in Litigation

The man who took care of Robert Indiana in the last years of his life, told a probate court hearing Wednesday that he was paid roughly $250,000 a year to tend to the aging artist, whose estate and legacy are now the subject of acrimony and lawsuits.

Under questioning by a lawyer representing the estate, caretaker, Jamie L. Thomas said he’d been earning $1,000 a week in 2013, when he started taking care of artist Robert Indiana, who lived alone on a Maine island, until his death in May at 89.

LOVEThe New York Times’ recent article entitled “Robert Indiana’s Estate: Generosity, Acrimony and Questions” reported that by 2016, Thomas said the artist had raised his salary to $5,000 a week for round-the-clock work that included bringing him meals, taking care of his dog and helping him to bed. He was also granted Indiana’s power of attorney.

Thomas said Indiana was a generous employer and that the artist had given him at least 118 pieces of art since 2010.

At the hearing, Thomas said that over the last two years he’d withdrawn $615,000 from Indiana’s accounts at his request. He didn’t say for what Indiana used the cash, but that the artist gave him $35,000 to buy a car.

James Brannan, the lawyer who’s the executor of Indiana’s estate, said he was surprised by the large cash withdrawals. Brannan said when he visited the artist’s home soon after his death, Thomas’s wife gave him a gym bag filled with $189,000 in cash. “This is yours,” she told him, “It belongs to the estate.”

Brannan isn’t certain if that cash is part of the $615,000 that was withdrawn.

John Frumer, the lawyer representing Thomas, said the hearing paints an incomplete picture.

“There’s much more to the story than it appears,” Frumer said. “Because it’s a limited proceeding, not all of the facts came out, and they will in time.”

Brannan asked the Knox County Probate Court to help clear up multiple questions that have swirled about Indiana’s finances in recent months. He said he wanted to clarify whether any money is owed to the estate, get an inventory of all the art works Indiana left behind and to address accusations that are contained in a separate lawsuit claiming Thomas and a New York art publisher made unauthorized works under Indiana’s name in recent years. That action was filed a day before Indiana’s death, by Morgan Art Foundation, an international dealer that claims the rights to many of the artist’s works, including the famous LOVE image. The suit claims that publisher Michael McKenzie and Thomas intentionally isolated Indiana from friends and business associates to sell inauthentic artwork attributed to him.

McKenzie said he had returned to the estate all the Indiana artworks that might belong to it. However, Brannan has said that he wants a full accounting of whether the Morgan company owes the estate money for royalty payments due on Indiana items it sold.

Indiana’s LOVE sculpture, with the letters stacked two-on-two and the tilted “O,” became one of the best-known images of the 20th century. The sculpture brought Indiana fame, but he left the New York art scene behind in 1978. He lived on the Maine island of Vinalhaven, an hour by ferry from the mainland, where the reclusive artist lived and worked, surrounded by a crew of studio assistants and workers.

Reference: New York Times (September 12, 2018) “Robert Indiana’s Estate: Generosity, Acrimony and Questions”

Awareness and Communication Can Help Head Off Elder Abuse

It’s great that overall our life expectancies have increased, but with longer lives, comes a greater risk of bad choices and financial elder abuse. There are steps you can take to protect those you love.

As we age, so does our brain. Even high functioning retirees, who have no outward signs of dementia, find it more challenging to distinguish between safe and risky investments, according to recent studies. The numbers say it all: only 7% of seniors over 60 have dementia, but nearly a third of those who are 85 years old or older have dementia.

MP900407501If you’re a senior or you have one in your life, it’s critical to know how to prevent abuse. The Kansas City Star provides some helpful ways to prevent abuse in its recent article, “Five ways to avoid elder financial abuse.”

Communication. Speak with your elderly loved ones on a regular basis to check in on their health and their activities. Remind them to maintain safe practices, like shredding receipts and account statements. You should also remind them to be cautious about opening unknown emails and that they should never give out their Social Security number or banking information online or on the phone. Keep open communication, so you can see if they’re showing any signs of confusion or mental decline.

Stay attentive. Know how your loved ones are spending time and their money. If they hire outside help, try to be involved in the hiring process and try to know their health care aides. In addition, take a look at their monthly or quarterly statements to identify any unusual, frequent, or large payments. If your loved one is showing signs of decline, ask if you can pay bills for them, so you’ll know what’s going on.

Create a system of checks and balances. Make sure that your senior has the proper estate planning documents in place that will let trusted family members help them as needed. If you have siblings or other family members, divide responsibilities and then swap responsibilities every few months.

Build professional relationships. Ask your senior to let you come to meetings with them, when visiting advisers, like their estate planning attorney.

Streamline accounts. Conduct an inventory of their financial documents. This includes their life insurance and long-term care policies, bank accounts and investment accounts. Try to make your loved one’s finances more manageable and consolidate their accounts where possible, which will make it easier to spot any unusual withdrawals or transactions.

If, despite all of your efforts, financial fraud or elder abuse takes place in your family, reach out to law enforcement in your area and talk with an elder law attorney. You can protect your loved one (or yourself) after the fact.

Reference:The Kansas City Star (September 8, 2018) “Five ways to avoid elder financial abuse”

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