Ernie Banks estate dispute settlement in jeopardy

Ernie Banks (January 31, 1931 – January 23, 2015) was a professional baseball player with the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971.  He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after a stellar career.  When he passed away, it was discovered that he prepared a will that gave all of his assets to his long-term caretaker, Regina Rice.  In addition, she was also named executor of the estate.  He left nothing to his family.  This was done on or about October  2014, a few months before he passed away.  Consequently, a dispute challenging the validity of the will immediately followed.  The Ernie Banks estate is still in dispute.  His family’s position is that he was unduly influenced and coerced by Ms. Rice to leave his assets to her.

The matter was heard by a Cook County Judge who heard testimony from paralegals from the firm where the will was executed.  The testimony confirmed that Ernie Banks was healthy and did not appear coerced at the time the will in question was executed.  As a result, Justice James G. Riley determined that the will was valid.  Ms. Rice was given 30 days to provide an accounting of the assets.  The accounting was important as various estimates suggested that the estate of Ernie Banks at the time of this death had assets worth approximately $16,000.  Nonetheless, members of the Banks family indicated that further legal steps may be taken.

Dispute may drag on and result in a trial

A recent story in the Chicago Tribune found here suggests that the Ernie Banks estate dispute may have recently taken a bizarre turn.  Ernie Banks’ widow, Elizabeth Banks, has continued contesting the will.  Both sides of the dispute recently reported to Justice James G. Riley that they were close to settlement.

Nonetheless, a recent status hearing took place where Ms. Banks’ lawyers asked to be removed from the case.  They did not have give reasons for the withdrawal, other than allegedly stating that differences have arisen between Ms. Banks and the firm that make it impossible for them to continue to represent her.  Ms. Banks was given three weeks to find another law firm.  This has put the settlement of this matter on hold.

A further cause for concern is that Justice James G. Riley is retiring in November of 2016.  Since settlement is not likely by that time, a new judge will have to take over the case.  Furthermore, a new law firm will have to be involved on behalf of Ms. Banks.  This will likely delay this matter for several months.  Costs are also going to increase as a new law firm will have to review the file on Ms. Banks’ behalf.  Meanwhile, Ms. Rice has taken steps to liquidate various assets of the estate, including putting up for auction Ernie Banks’ 1977 Hall of Fame ring.

The Ernie Banks estate dispute is a great example of what can happen as a result of a late life will change.  Allegations were made that Ernie Banks had developed dementia in the final months of his life.  Leaving nothing to his family opened the door to protracted and expensive litigation.  It will be interesting to see how this case progresses.

For more on the Ernie Banks dispute click here.