It seems to happen with depressing regularity: another big-name celebrity is caught up in a bitter squabble with adult children, business managers, and high-priced lawyers over the disposition of their money. The most recent example to hit the headlines is Marvel comics icon Stan Lee, who is reported to be suffering from physical and mental decline at age 95. His adult daughter, his supposed business manager, and his attorney are all embroiled in a legal fight over money and influence, complete with restraining orders and allegations of abuse.
Legal Tug of War
Several recent articles, including this one that appeared a few weeks ago on the Fox News website and this one that we discovered from Hollywood Reporter, have attempted to untangle the barrage of claims and counter-claims about the sad state of Stan Lee. Here at AgingOptions we offer this story as a cautionary tale, reminding you that you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to find yourself and your family in a mean-spirited legal tug of war. Families are tearing themselves apart over issues of money every day, often because mom or dad failed to plan their affairs adequately. We’ll have more on that in a moment.
First, let’s consider a bit of background. Stan Lee, according to the Hollywood Reporter story, came to Marvel Comics in New York in the 1960’s. The article calls Lee a “comic book legend whose creative tenure at the helm of Marvel Comics…spawned Spider-Man, Black Panther and the X-Men.” That creativity has now matured into a net worth estimated at $50 to $70 million dollars, including at least $1 million income annually from Marvel Comics movies and spin-offs. Ever since Lee’s wife of 70 years, Joan, died in 2017, Lee has declined mentally and physically while the battle for control of Lee’s fortune has exploded both in private and in public.
Lee’s only child is a 67-year-old daughter, J.C., who reportedly has a history of gross financial mismanagement and manipulation of her parents. A few months ago, Stan Lee, through his attorney, accused his daughter and an associate, Keya Morgan, of exerting improper influence in order to seize control over Lee’s assets, and filed a restraining order against the pair. However, to illustrate Lee’s troubled state of mind, two days later he changed his mind and rescinded the court order. Since then, Keya Morgan has inserted himself into Lee’s life as his business manager, confidant, adviser and mouthpiece, and has exerted a greater level of control over the declining multi-millionaire. Lee has reportedly made no public statements except for recorded ones controlled and released by Morgan. The Hollywood Reporter article calls this “an increasingly toxic and combative situation involving broken alliances, abrupt expulsions and allegations of elder abuse.”
Without going into unnecessary detail, the Fox News story reports that the ugly episode just keeps getting stranger. Recently, Lee filed another protection order against Keya Morgan accusing him of abuse. But then Lee appeared once again to abruptly recant, referring to Morgan as his only authorized representative. “Anybody else who claims to be my rep is just making that story up,” Fox News quotes Lee. “I just want to put it on the record. If you want me, call me, if you can’t get me, call Morgan. The two of us are working together and conquering the world side-by-side.”
“Celebrities Aren’t Focused”
In researching the Stan Lee saga, we also came across this related article on the website of the Norwalk Reflector. The article cites well-known celebrities who have fallen into sad, contentious situations over their money, just like Stan Lee. These are typically famous and wealthy individuals facing declining health and mental capacities, including the late Mickey Rooney, entertainment mogul Sumner Redstone, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The problem is that these wealthy people never stop to plan ahead until it’s too late. “Many celebrities aren’t focused [on the future],” the article quotes entertainment lawyer Kenneth Abdo. “If people don’t take matters into their own hands when they are able to do so, [their estate] could fall into the wrong hands.”
Apart from pity for the sad state of a once powerful man, what’s the take-away from the Stan Lee story? Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions puts it succinctly. “Money alone is not the answer,” he states. “Unless you go through a complete and comprehensive planning process, having wealth is nothing more than a false promise.” But, says Rajiv, it doesn’t have to be that way. “You can definitely change that outcome and protect yourself and your family by understanding how to put the pieces together. That way,” he adds, “your money will do what you want it do and accomplish what you want. It will yield the intended results instead of being a source of friction and conflict.”
Like Pieces of a Puzzle
The key to proper planning is to consider the “big picture” of retirement, making certain all the pieces work together: financial plans, legal protection, medical coverage, housing choices, and family dynamics. We call this type of planning LifePlanning, and it’s an AgingOptions exclusive. If your desire is to protect your assets, avoid becoming a burden to those you love, and escape the trap of being forced against your will into institutional care, a LifePlan is the best way we know to accomplish those goals. And remember, as said above, you need to take matters into your own hands while you’re mentally and physically able to do so. Don’t put it off! There’s no time like the present.
Let us offer you a simple invitation as a way to take the next step: come join Rajiv Nagaich at a free LifePlanning Seminar soon and discover more about this retirement planning breakthrough. Do what thousands of people just like you have done and invest a few hours in one of these information-packed sessions with Rajiv. For dates, times, and locations, visit our Live Events page and sign up online for the seminar of your choice. If you need assistance, feel free to contact our office by phone during the week. Let the sad examples of Stan Lee, music legend Casey Kasem, television pioneer Sumner Redstone and a host of other famous people serve as a warning: aging well is not about how much money you have – it’s about how well you plan. Age on!
(originally reported at www.foxnews.com)