A lot of times when people think of estate planning, they think of what happens to a person’s assets after death. Thanks, in part, to cases like Stan Lee’s elder abuse saga, that term is evolving to include asset management later in life when a person’s faculties are called into question. Stan Lee, master of popular culture through his co-creation of legends like Spider-Man, X-Men, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four is the perfect poster-person for the issue of later-in-life estate planning.
LOSS OF FACULTIES LATER IN LIFE
While the average person is not worth over $50 million like Stan Lee, we can all learn a lesson from his story when it comes to estate planning. At the ripe age of 95, Stan Lee reportedly suffers from a significant loss of vision, hearing, and memory. Reportedly, his loss of faculties has rendered him incapable of making informed decisions, and the fear is that he is unable to decipher good intentions from bad. The cold hard truth is that people who are worth over 50 million will likely face the efforts of people trying to manipulate their fortunes out from under them at one point or another.
LONGEVITY AND ESTATE PLANNING
Thanks in part to medical advancements, people are living longer than ever before. While this seems like a purely positive advancement, it does call into question what happens when a person’s faculties fade and how they can protect themselves against potential gold diggers. This issue has given rise to the necessity of including later-life planning under the estate planning umbrella.
To prevent later-in-life cases of financial elder abuse, estate planning attorneys recommend simplifying assets, revocable trusts, and trustee selection.
SIMPLIFICATION OF ASSETS
When it comes to managing your assets, especially later in life, consolidation is an excellent pre-emptive measure against people taking advantage of an individual’s loss of faculties. A financial portfolio that involves one or two accounts, as opposed to several, is much easier to manage and oversee; as such, it is less vulnerable to usurpers.
Clients who have their assets in a revocable trust are protected against the type of financial elder abuse currently facing Stan Lee. What a revocable trust entails is the designation of a successor trustee appointed to take over asset management for an individual once that individual’s faculties and ability to make informed decisions are called into question. Generally, that diagnosis is performed by two licensed doctors writing formal letters stating that the individual in question is no longer able to manage their own financial affairs.
When it comes time to select a trustee, this is a decision that should be taken with the utmost seriousness and made under the assumption that their services will be needed in the future. The current situation facing Stan Lee is a sad one, especially as those allegedly trying to swindle him out of his fortune are individuals that are close to him. The selected trustee should be chosen out of altruism, rather than convenience. Common reasons like proximity or position within the family will often result in the wrong person being selected. Questions like “Will this person follow through with my wishes?” and “Does this person truly have my best interest at heart?” should be the ones to focus on.
It is an eye-opening circumstance when a pop-culture genius and icon like Stan Lee is faced with financial elder abuse. What we, the public, can learn from his case is that estate planning processes need to include what happens later in life, rather than solely after life ends. For those approaching their golden years, taking the aforementioned pre-emptive steps to ensure their financial assets are secured could be an invaluable concept capable of providing powerful protection later in life. As always, we encourage you to contact an estate planning attorney in Corona, or Orange County to discuss your affairs.