Ernie Banks' family, caretaker embroiled in estate dispute

Baseball legend Ernie Banks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. He died in January at age 83.

Story highlights

  • Ernie Banks' caretaker didn't tell the family she had him sign a new will, his sons say
  • The caretaker says she is determined to adhere to Banks' wishes

(CNN)A caretaker for baseball legend Ernie Banks coerced him into signing a new will before his death, leaving all his assets to her, the Hall of Famer's family says.

The renowned Chicago Cub died of a heart attack last month at age 83. His death certificate cites dementia as a significant contributing factor to his death, CNN affiliate WGN reported.
Banks family attorney Mark Bogen said Banks' agent, Regina Rice, had the octogenarian sign a new will three months before his death.
    "Our family thought that Ms. Rice was helping our father and watching over him while he was in Chicago," son Joey Banks said in a statement from the attorney. "However, we have learned that she had him sign a power of attorney, a health care directive and a will giving everything to Ms. Rice."
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    Another son, Jerry Banks, said he believes Rice coerced his father when he was ill.
    He said that before his father's sudden death, "we spoke often to Ms. Rice because she made it difficult for us to speak directly to him.
    "However, she purposefully never told us that while our father was ill, he signed documents giving her total control," Jerry Banks said.
    Bogan said the family didn't know of the new will until after Banks' funeral.
    "We will vigorously fight and contest this will," the family attorney said.

    Caretaker: Banks trusted me

    Rice issued her own statement, saying she was carrying out Banks' wishes.
    "Ernie was an intricate part of my life for over twelve (12) years. Ernie trusted me to carry out his wishes, some during his lifetime and others after his life. He made me promise to adhere to his wishes and I am determined to do just that," Rice said.
    "It is understandable that Ernie's family is concerned at this very sad time. However, the record and those closest to Ernie will dispel any iota of concern regarding my relationship with Ernie and his trust in me to carrying out his wishes," she said.
    "I will not participate in any verbal jousting with Ernie's family or do anything to bring negativity to the legacy of such a dear and honorable and extremely positive man. Ernie would have hated that."
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    From Negro Leagues to Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Banks started his career in the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day. He later joined the big leagues and became "one of the greatest players of all time," Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said.
    "Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball," Ricketts said after Banks' death.
    "He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known."
    Six years after his last at-bat, Banks was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. And in 2013, Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the nation's highest civilian honor.