Ernest "Ernie" Banks was a professional baseball player who spent his entire career with the Chicago Cubs, earning him the title "Mr. Cubs." He was a national legend but particularly beloved in Chicago, where we consider him one of the greatest players of all time. Ernie Banks died in late January 2015, enacting in a bitter dispute over his will between his family and his live-in caregiver.
Nursing home abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins want to highlight this story not to exploit Banks' story or his family, but to illuminate an important issue in elderly care that often goes overlooked. Financial abuse among the elderly is incredibly common, particularly in nursing homes, where residents often suffer from cognitive disabilities that make them seem like vulnerable targets.
Three months before his death, Banks signed a new will that awarded all his assets to his live-in caregiver and agent, Regina Rice, which his family knew nothing about. He also signed a power of attorney and health care directive that gave Rice full and immediate control over his finances and healthcare.
Banks' family - including his wife and two sons - only found out about the documents after his death. Rice, who cared for Banks for over a decade, claims that Banks was a trusted confidant and wanted her to have everything. Eight days after Banks was buried, however, Rice enjoyed a day at the spa, sipping Moet champagne and uploading a video of the pampering on her Facebook page.
Jerry and Joey Banks, Ernie's twin sons, both live in Los Angeles, and told the Chicago Sun-Times that it was difficult to get ahold of their father toward the end of his life. His phone number would change constantly and Rice would deflect questions about his wellbeing. Both brothers and Ernie's estranged wife believe Rice took advantage of him in his declining health, coercing him to sign a new will.
The Banks family plans to vigorously fight and contest this new will in court. The court has ordered Rice to provide more detailed documentation about Banks' assets, and she will not be able to sell any of Banks' assets without court approval while the case is ongoing.
Elderly people who do not have the capacity or desire to manage their own finances often entrust caregivers with their property and accounts. This is not uncommon or illegal, but it does leave room for manipulation. Entrusted parties are typically given power of attorney, health care directives and other documentation that gives them control of the person's funds.
If these powers are taken advantage of or signed over without consent, the elderly person can be stripped of not only their financial assets but their final wishes as well. Too often, this occurs in nursing homes by staff or attendants. It is critical that families with a loved one in a nursing home keep a close, watchful eye on the resident's finances, accounts, and property.
Some of the most common forms of financial abuse in nursing homes include: cashing a patient's checks, using a resident's credit or debit card, forging a resident's signature, and, of course, deceiving a resident into signing documents.
Signs of financial abuse can include: sudden changes in a financial account or will, unexplained or frequent withdrawals from accounts, extra names on bank documents, signing of contracts without the family's knowledge, and forged signatures.