Ruth Lilly's relatives take over guardianship


Roger Harvey/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - One of the wealthiest women in the world, Ruth Lilly, is in declining health and unable to take care of herself. A judge ruled Monday that two family members will serve as Lilly's guardians. Eight years ago, 13 Investigates first raised questions concerning how Ruth Lilly's massive fortune was spent.

The most recent images of Ruth Lilly were taken in 1999, when she was at the airport on the way to Europe. The 91-year-old, sole-surviving great grandchild of the founder of Lilly Pharmaceuticals is in declining health and, according to doctors and family members, she is unable to make decisions on her own.

Ted Lilly, Ruth's nephew and Virginia Lilly Nicholas, a niece, signed court papers which put them in charge of handling Ruth Lilly's financial affairs. Ted Lilly did not want to comment on the judge's decision.

According to the guardianship court documents, "Ruth Lilly, by reason of illness and infirmity, lacks the capacity to manage her personal care, and medical, financial and legal affairs."

Dr. Vincent Alig, who has cared for Ruth Lilly for 21 years, told the court Lilly suffers from severe pulmonary and cardiac problems and repeated infections. Two nurses care for her 24 hours a day and Lilly now uses a feeding tube because she is unable to eat on her own.

"I told the court that I felt it was very appropriate for Ruth Lilly to have a guardian," said Dr. Alig, who said Lilly's age and health conditions have made it more difficult for her to make decisions on her own.

13 Investigates first raised questions about spending practices related to her massive fortune eight years ago. Since then, the court ordered a closer watch of spending from Lilly's estate. As two relatives signed papers to become their aunt's guardian, a third nephew George Lilly points to the view out the window - the Lilly headquarters which is where the Lilly fortune all started.

Now that Lilly's niece and nephew will oversee her finances, Ruth Lilly will no longer be able to write checks or use credit cards on her own. She won't be able to take trips unless approved by her guardians.

Ruth Lilly did not attend the court hearing today. In addition to overseeing Lilly's living expenses, her guardians will also help distribute charitable giving which averages $10 million a year.