IL Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Stan Lee’s tangled web of estate planning and how to avoid it in your own life

Stan Lee’s tangled web of estate planning and

how to avoid it in your own life

By Alessandra Malito

Published: Nov 17, 2018 9:38 a.m. ET



Here are 9 questions to ask during

your own estate planning.


Stan Lee, the co-creator of superheroes including

Captain America and Spider-Man, left this universe

with a long list of unfortunate events, and not even the

Avengers can help with this one.


The late former Marvel Comics publisher and

chairman, 95, was ill for the last year. Lee, who is

survived by his 68-year-old daughter J.C., faced other

challenges in the last few years as well: his wife of

nearly 70 years died in July 2017, and earlier this

year, he was accused of sexually harassing nurses

and home aides, and reported that $1.4 million dollars

went missing from his bank accounts. At the time,

he claimed part of that money $850,000 —was

stolen to purchase a condo,


He had also worked with and broken up with a few

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 Beast

in an interview this year, adding he had done much of

the money management himself in the beginning 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.”


Estate planning can be an emotional, tricky process. It

is unclear whether Lee had a will or any trusts in

place. Many late celebrities have forewent these

documents, forcing heirs and potential beneficiaries to

battle it out in court, including performers.


For a typical person, estate planning is usually pretty

straightforward. There are a few estate planning

steps everyone should take, including: planning for

incapacity or disability, organizing important

documents (like a power of attorney) and occasionally

re-evaluating beneficiaries.


Monitoring and maintaining a plan can become even

more difficult as a person ages, because the

individual could suffer cognitive decline —or a

professional or family member may think he or she is

suffering from such. Comics creator Lee has been the

subject of these claims —in February, he signed a

document stating his now 68-year-old daughter

spends too much money, yells and screams at him

and has befriended three men with intentions to take

advantage of him, the Hollywood Reporter reported.


A few days after the document was notarized, Lee

took it back. Talking through these issues before they

potentially happen can prevent similar messes, said

David Lehn, partner in the private client and tax team

of Withers. “Older people get less confident in what

they’re doing, and they get more susceptible to being

influenced by other people who may not have the best

of intentions,” he said. “It’s easy to set up a plan that

you are comfortable will work in the long term.”


One of the greatest complications Lee’s estate, and

specifically his daughter, will be dealing with the

numerous documents likely floating around,

considering his current and past relationships with

business managers and attorneys, Lehn said. “You

could have all these people coming into court saying

‘I’m supposed to do this,’” he said. The legal fees

could be extravagantly high, and would come out of

the estate.


Even people without millions of dollars and a career

creating iconic superheroes should prepare for the

future they will and won’t be in. When working with a

financial adviser or estate planner, clients and

prospective clients should ask a few specific

questions, including:


How are we going to organize and simplify my



What sorts of accounts and trusts will we use and

how will they be managed?


How will you work with my trusted contact, while I’m

well, and after I’m sick or deceased? (And for those

unsure, how can I pick the right trusted contact, such

as a family member or professional?)


How do you determine cognitive decline in an

individual? And what practice would you take if you

thought my ability to answer questions and manage

my funds was diminished? What would you do once

you’ve made this determination?


How else do you practice checks and balances during

the financial planning or estate planning process, and

during the monitoring of my assets?


How often will we review beneficiary agreements and

estate planning documents?


Do you work with a team of professionals, and in what

capacity? How often will I work with them too?


Should we ever include my family members or other

beneficiaries in our conversations, and when?


Do you have any references I could speak with?

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