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Worried an elderly relative is being financially abused? What to do next

Worried an elderly relative is being financially abused? What to do next

More elderly people are experiencing financial abuse, often at the hands of a trusted family member, friend or adviser, than ever before.

A recent study by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and the Alzheimer’s Society, confirms that as the issues of an aging population increase, including mental capacity, so does the prevalence of financial abuse.

In addition, a report by the Office of National Statistics has revealed that around 1.5 million older adults were the victim of some sort of financial abuse in 2020.

One of the key factors at play is the rise in the number of older adults diagnosed with dementia – the World Health Organisation says cases are set to triple by 2050 – creating more potentially vulnerable people at risk of exploitation.

Clearly, this means that recognising the signs of financial abuse, and knowing what to do, has never been more important.

What are the most common kinds of financial elder abuse?

It can be carried out by anyone close to the victim – spouses, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, carers and those in a position of trust and responsibility.

Often the perpetrator is fuelled by a sense of misplaced moral justification that they are simply claiming an inheritance that is rightfully theirs, and which they feel they are having to wait too long for. Examples include:

  • Theft and the improper use of money or assets.
  • Fraud including forging signatures.
  • Misuse of powers of attorney and other legal documents.
  • Forcing the elderly person to sign a document through deception, coercion or undue influence, for example transferring ownership of a car or shares.
  • Persuading someone to pay more than they need to for something like accommodation or shopping and pocketing the difference.

What are the warning signs of suspected financial elder abuse?

This can be difficult, as much of the abuse inevitably takes place behind closed doors.

However, common indicators include sudden or unexpected changes like:

  • Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts or significant transfers of money.
  • Extra names on bank accounts or benefit payments.
  • The sudden arrival on the scene of previously uninvolved relatives or ‘close friends’.
  • A change in the victim’s spending habits – for instance, a sudden increase in the amount of money being withdrawn each week when it’s been the same for years.

What should I do if I suspect someone of financial elder abuse?

Financial abuse is a crime reportable to the police and Hourglass, formerly Action on Elder Abuse, has a confidential helpline to provide information, advice and support to victims and anyone concerned about abuse. It is 0808 8088 141.

Call 999 if you are reporting a crime or someone is in immediate danger.

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

Using a solicitor to draw up important documents like a Will or a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for an older client offers an important safeguard against abuse.

Using DIY online versions of these documents means there is little to stop an elderly person being misled into signing something they don’t understand or aren’t happy with by someone they trust or don’t want to offend by raising questions.

A solicitor, who is trained to look out for anything that doesn’t seem right, will always spend time with the elderly person to make sure they really do want to enter into the proposed transaction.

Read more about what we have written on this subject by clicking here.

Get in touch

Wards Solicitors is ranked as a leading firm in the South West in the 2024 edition of Legal 500 with our Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity Team one of the largest in the region and vastly experienced.

Most of our lawyers are members of The Association of Lifetime Lawyers (formerly Solicitors for the Elderly) and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). Both organisations require the highest standards of their members with proven qualifications and experience.

We can explain how to reduce the risk of abuse and prepare legal documents which contain the appropriate safeguards and provide the relevant advice to the elderly client’s legally appointed attorney or deputy.

  • We offer a free initial appointment to discuss what is needed and always provide clear cost details up front before starting any work.

Please contact any member of Wards Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity Team

    Get in Touch

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