Elder abuse

We all know that criminals target older clients and the consequences can be particularly harsh.

Last week’s ITV show ‘Robbing the Relatives’ was really upsetting. It revealed tens of thousands of ‘financial abuse’ crime reports to the police, where the victim was aged over 65 and worryingly, these figures show an increasing number of thieves are relatives.

We advise our clients on Lasting Powers of Attorney and overall, we still believe it is right that you should choose who you want to make decisions for you in the future if you need help or simply can’t make choices for yourself. But you do need to be careful.

A lot of our clients give the LPAs to their spouses and children, You can appoint them ‘jointly’, so no-one can act on their own. That gives more protection but can be less convenient if every decision has to be made by everyone you appoint.

Or you can make them ‘independent’ so that only one signature is needed. Simpler, but less safe, as the program revealed when parents appointed their two sons independently and one brother had left looking after their parents’ finances to the other, only to find that he had abused the LPA for his own gain. He took £400,000 and his parents are now without money and reliant on state funding.

A few months ago, I mentioned the case of Richard Willis, who committed fraud and took £600,000 from his dementia suffering mother. He striped her accounts and while she was in a care home he sold her property from under her.

I know from my experience that the majority of attorneys do a good job, but the program reported that there have been 1,266 ‘safeguarding referral’ investigations in England and Wales this year- with a fifth, 272 ending up in the Court of Protection.

The programme featured an interview with Caroline Bielanska, from Solicitors for the Elderly, who explained that sometimes, the family feel justified in using their parents’ money-

“They may well feel that this is somehow compensation for all the hassle that’s involved in being an attorney. They are either unaware that they can’t make large gifts to themselves, or they will justify why they are doing so. They may feel, well, I am going to get this eventually, mum doesn't need the money now, but I do.”

Well, they may feel all of those things but that does not stop it being a crime!

Come to see us for advice on how to set up LPAs for your family in the safest and most appropriate way for you, or if you are worried that you or someone you know is the victim of financial abuse. If you believe you or someone you know or care for has been a victim of fraud, you should contact Social Services who will investigate and start a safeguarding investigation if appropriate.

If you have any concerns that someone is misusing an LPA you should report any suspicion of abuse immediately to OPG.

You can also contact Action Fraud online at: www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

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