Baseball fans of a certain age will remember Ernie Banks, the former Chicago Cub shortstop and first baseman whom many consider one of the best players of all time. Banks was the first African-American to play for the Cubs and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. He died in 2015 shortly after his 84th birthday. Unfortunately, his estate remains mired in litigation.
Banks’ widow, who now lives in California, is challenging a will Banks signed three months before his death. At the time of Banks’ death the couple was estranged; the new will left his entire estate to his caretaker and nothing to his family.
Banks’ widow alleges that shortly before he signed the new will, Banks was diagnosed with dementia. The caretaker alleges that Banks trusted her and did not want his family to receive anything from his estate.
Recently, a judge in Chicago allowed the caretaker to proceed with the sale of some of Banks’ personal property, including his 1950 Negro League contract and the Presidential Medal of Freedom he received from President Obama in 2013. He ordered, however, that Banks’ widow has the right to receive a copy of the inventory and the plan for the sale. The sale will go forward unless she files an objection.
The attorneys for both sides indicated at the hearing that they are discussing settlement terms, but no settlement agreement had yet been reached. In the meantime the auction of Banks’ personal items will take place in August, unless the widow objects.
For a will to be valid in California, the testator must be mentally competent at the time the will is signed. A diagnosis of dementia does not in itself render a person incompetent, as long as they understand the nature of what they are doing in signing the will, what assets they own and their relationship to relatives, descendants and others affected by the will.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Ernie Banks’ caretaker given tentative OK to sell some of legend’s assets,” Lolly Bowean, June 15, 2016