Stan Lee’s Business Manager Charged, but Elder Financial Abuse Can Happen to Anyone

Posted on December 13, 2019 by Amanda DiChello, Adam D. Reid

At the end of Stan Lee's life, the Marvel Comics creator found himself surrounded by many people. Various allegations of financial elder abuse were made before he died on November 12, 2018, at age 95. Lee left behind an estate valued at approximately $50 million.

Earlier this year, a former business manager of Lee's was charged with stealing money from the comic book legend in the year before Lee's death. Authorities in Los Angeles reportedly charged Keya Morgan with theft, embezzlement, fraud against an elder adult, and false imprisonment of an elder adult. Morgan pleaded not guilty in June.

Targeting the Elderly

People target aging celebrities for their often-considerable fortunes, but any elderly person can fall victim to financial abuse. Unfortunately, sometimes the very people with the authority to oversee and assist with the affairs of an elderly person are the ones who take advantage of them. 

Elder financial abuse is the top concern reported to Adult Protective Services, according to the Elder Financial Abuse Prevention Toolkit published by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities and Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to manipulation by family, friends, and others in their lives, according to the publication, when some or all of the following circumstances exist:

  • Recent loss of a spouse or partner

  • Social isolation

  • Dependence on someone for care, transportation, or other services

  • Financial responsibility for an adult child, grandchild, or other family member

  • Recent change in health

  • Frequent mistakes in handling finances

  • Regularly running out of money by the end of the month

  • Willingness to listen to telemarketers and participate in sweepstakes contests

  • Pressure from children, caregivers, or others to share or gift money or change their wills

Red Flags

Many of these circumstances are inevitable as people age. Therefore, it's important to keep an eye out for red flags that an older person is being financially abused, including:

  • Trouble paying bills or making financial decisions

  • Expressing fear and anxiety

  • Giving others access to financial accounts

  • Reporting money missing

  • Gifting or transferring  money to others

  • Showing signs of physical neglect or decline in physical appearance

The publication recommends taking proactive measures that can help reduce an older individual's vulnerability and help detect financial abuse that may occur, including:

  • Register the person's phone number on the state's Do Not Call Registry to reduce unwanted calls

  • Set up credit report monitoring

  • Review the person's financial account statements monthly and address any unauthorized charges immediately

  • Shred all discarded financial paperwork and credit card offers

  • If necessary, execute a power of attorney to appoint a trusted person to handle the person's financial affairs

  • If necessary, consider the routes of court appointed guardianships for incapacitated persons

A senior citizen doesn't have to be as wealthy as Stan Lee for someone to try to take advantage of them. Keeping an eye on the financial, as well as the emotional and physical well-being, of older individuals can go a long way towards catching or heading off predators.