Financial Abuse is another name for stealing or defrauding someone of goods and/or property. It is always a crime but is not always prosecuted. Sometime the issue is straightforward, for example a careworker stealing from an older person’s purse, but at other times it is more difficult to address. This is because very often the perpetrator can be someone’s son or daughter, or age prejudice means that other people assume it is not happening or that the older person is to blame.
Two common issues that come to our attention are (a) sons or daughters attempting to justify their actions on the basis that they are simply obtaining their inheritance in advance and (b) the extensive misuse of Powers of Attorney. (See below).
Why does it happen?
Powers of Attorney:
On occasions banks and solicitors can unintentionally assist in the misuse of Enduring Powers of Attorney. Only a Lasting Power of Attorney needs to be registered with the Court of Protection before it is used and even then there is little to prevent a determined attorney from financially abusing an incapacitated donor. A useful first step if abuse is suspected is to contact by letter the bank of the donor and any estate agent involved – they will be able to let the solicitor know that someone is keeping a watching brief.
What are the signs of Financial abuse?
- Signatures on cheques etc., that do not resemble the older person’s signature, or signed when the older person cannot write.
- Sudden changes in bank accounts, including unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money by a person accompanying the older person.
- The inclusion of additional names on an older person’s bank account.
- Abrupt changes to, or the sudden establishment of, wills.
- The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an older person’s affairs or possessions.
- The unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
- Numerous unpaid bills, or overdue rent, when someone else is supposed to be paying the bills.
- Unusual concern by someone that an excessive amount of money is being expended on the care of the older person.
- Lack of amenities, such as TV, personal grooming items, appropriate clothing, that the older person should be able to afford.
- The unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions such as art, silverware, or jewellery.
- Deliberate isolation of an older person from friends and family, resulting in the caregiver alone having total control.