Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Friday, September 21, 2018

Court Protects Spiderman’s Creator from Possible Undue Influence

Q: How can elders be protected from undue influence or abuse?

It would be hard to imagine Spiderman or Black Panther falling victim to elder abuse. But plenty of people without superpowers are vulnerable to physical, emotional or financial elder abuse or exploitation.

Maybe even those who create our invincible superheroes—like the Marvel Comics legend, Stan Lee, who is now 95 years old and widowed.

A Los Angeles judge reportedly recently issued a temporary restraining order against a memorabilia collector claiming to be Mr. Lee's caregiver, banning him from "abusing, harassing or contacting” the senior citizen. The caregiver reportedly denies any wrongdoing.

According to court documents, Mr. Lee's guardian ad litem claims he's vulnerable to financial predators as a result of his "hearing, vision, and memory impairments" and his inability to "resist undue influence".

While it's not always possible to completely eliminate the risk of financial exploitation, senior citizens can be protected to a large extent through proper and comprehensive estate planning. Some documents commonly executed along with a last will and testament and/or trust documents, are documents to plan for incapacity instead of death. Such additional documents include powers of attorney and living wills.

Powers of attorney allow you to appoint a trusted person to handle your financial decisions in the event you become incapacitated and unable to do so. In addition to choosing the person, you can decide if the power goes into effect immediately or if it only “springs” into effect if you become incapacitated.

In addition, a durable power of attorney for healthcare (also referred to as a healthcare proxy) allows you to appoint a trusted person to make healthcare decisions if you are incapacitated and unable to do so for yourself.

A living will is a document that enables you to specify end-of-life health care decisions about treatment you do or do not want to receive if end up in a situation where you can't make those decisions yourself. Examples include DNR orders, artificial respiration, feeding tubes and hydration, pain management medications, antibiotics, and more.

It's important to note that these documents must be executed while you have the mental capacity to do so. If your mental health significantly deteriorates from any condition, accident or injury, you may not be able to execute a power of attorney.

At that point, a guardianship or conservatorship over yourself or your property will be necessary. Seeking the appointment of a guardian requires court intervention, making the process not only costly and time-consuming in comparison to a power of attorney, but may result in the court appointing a guardian that you would not have wanted or who you may not even know.

If you need assistance with an estate plan, would like to modify an existing plan, or have questions regarding elder abuse of yourself or your loved one, the trust and estate planning specialists at the Law Offices of Berge & Berge can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our office in San Jose, California, we've been serving the estate planning needs of the South Bay area for over 23 years.

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