Three months before he died, an ill and infirm Ernie Banks signed a new will, giving all his assets to a his live-in caretaker and agent, Regina Rice.
At the same time, according to Banks’ two sons and a family attorney, the late baseball great also signed a power of attorney and a health care directive, giving Rice immediate control of his finances and his health care.
It was only after Banks’ funeral that his family found out about the new will.
“My father was ill at the time she had him sign a will and I believe coerced him to give all of his assets to her,” said Jerry Banks, the 55-year-old son of Ernie Banks.
“I find it quite interesting that she did not tell anyone that she had an attorney write up a new will,” he said.
Jerry Banks, along with his twin brother, Joey, spoke out Monday for the first time about the dispute that has erupted in Cook County Probate Court, not only over Banks’ money, but the disposal of his body.
Banks’ estranged wife, Elizabeth, has gone to court to prevent Rice from cremating Banks’ body.
“Our father never told us he wanted to be cremated and we find it very suspicious that Ms. Rice, who claimed that she was taking excellent care of our father, now wants to have him cremated,” Jerry Banks said.
The brothers also were upset to see a video of Rice on her Facebook page taken at a spa eight days after Banks was buried. Rice talked about sipping Champagne and took a separate picture of a Champagne bottle proffered by a waiter.
“Everybody’s in mourning. If your supposed to be the caregiver, long-time associate . . . why are you up in the spa?” Jerry Banks said.
The brothers live in Los Angeles, where Joey works as a teamster in the film industry and Jerry is a real estate agent.
They said that toward the end, it was difficult to talk with their father.
“The phone numbers changed constantly and it was difficult to keep up with what number he was being contacted,” Joey Banks said.
Meanwhile, Rice deflected the brothers’ questions. “She’d get angry and say — I’ve had a long day dealing with your dad, I don’t want to talk about it any more,” Joey Banks said, completing a sentence his brother started.
Rice issued a statement saying Banks was an “intricate part of my life,” for 12 years.
Rice did not address any specific allegations, but 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.”
The Banks’ family attorney, Mark Bogen, said: “We will vigorously fight and contest this will.”