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The hidden problem of abuse against the elderly

The hidden problem of abuse against the elderly

Older people today are at an increased risk of financial abuse - it's a largely hidden crime that takes place behind closed doors but with an ever-ageing population, evidence suggests it's a growing problem.

Uncovering it involves being able to pick up on a number of key signs and this is where using a qualified solicitor to draw up important documents like Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney is always safer than DIY law where, after a simple online form has been filled in, there are few further checks and balances.

Wards Solicitors' highly experienced Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity solicitors are all experienced in elder client law and most are members of the highly respected Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), dedicated to safeguarding the interests of older people.

How can abuse of older people happen?

Most older people choose a family member or members when appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to act on their behalf if they lose mental capacity and are unable to manage their own affairs.

There are two types of LPA. One for property and financial affairs and one which covers health and welfare decisions and can include end-of-life care.

Unfortunately, older people are extremely vulnerable to financial abuse with the abuser most often someone close to them like a relative, friend or carer.

Relatives who disagree with the advice given by a solicitor can simply go online to download LPAs for their parents to sign.

This means no further checks are ever carried out to find out whether that is what the older person really wants and is happy with.

The problem is heightened by the fact that older people often don't realise they are being abused or are too embarrassed to admit it, meaning the issue remains behind closed doors.

How can a solicitor spot the warning signs of elder abuse?

A solicitor is an important safeguard for an older client who may be at risk of financial abuse.

SFE solicitors are trained to look out for anything which doesn't seem quite right when drawing up a Will or an LPA for an older client. This includes spending some time with them on their own and asking them questions designed to ensure they really want to enter into the proposed transaction.

They also make sure the client has the necessary mental capacity and that they fully understand the purpose, nature, effect and consequences of what they are doing.

What are the warning signs of abuse?

The warning signs of abuse can include:

  • An overly protective relative or carer who does not allow the elderly person to speak for themselves;
  • Implausible stories from relatives;
  • Evidence that the elderly person concerned is hesitant to speak or appears afraid, withdrawn, non-communicative, confused or disorientated;
  • Signatures that do not resemble the elderly person's signature;
  • An impression that the elderly person is being unduly influenced.

A solicitor who sees an older client in person, or via a video call, can also be on the look out for the signs of physical abuse and neglect that sometimes go hand in hand with financial abuse.

Get in touch

In these difficult times, we are here for all our clients providing a high-quality service via telephone or video call. We are still able to arrange a limited number of safe, socially distanced meetings when necessary.

Wards Solicitors is recommended as a leading practice in the 2021 edition of the independent Legal 500 guide and our Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team lawyers are highly experienced, bringing a wealth of knowledge and commitment to their role.

We can explain the process of appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney and how we can draft legal documents which contain the appropriate safeguards to reduce the risk of abuse and provide the relevant advice to the legally appointed deputy or attorney acting on behalf of the elderly client.

We can also provide advice about making or reviewing your Will. Please contact Wards Solicitors' Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.

You can find your most local Wards office here.