In response to a comment received at the end of my last post, here are 9 warning signs of financial abuse in elderly clients and 10 remedies that practitioners should consider if abuse is suspected.
9 Warning signs of abuse in elderly clients
- Recently bereaved or suffering from depression
- Unkempt appearance when previously they were well turned out
- Dependence on a new acquaintance or 'carer'
- Complains of missing possessions
Involvement of relatives of clients:
- First contact by a relative rather than client
- Client being accompanied to the office with a relative
- Client who has recently changed solicitors for no apparent reason
- Client who wants to give a substantial gift to one child and not to others
- Requests from relatives to move client's affairs to another firm
Remedies that practitioners should consider if financial abuse of elderly clients is suspected
Preparation of Lasting Powers of Attorney:
- Advise a client to seek legal advice from you rather than doing it themselves
- Make it a condition of the LPA that the donor client's finances are audited independently annually
- Ensure that you or the client's GP acts as certificate provider rather than a family 'friend'
Other legal transactions:
- Ask the client for a family tree with contact details of close relatives
- Be suspicious about significant changes to wills which are outside the pattern of previous wills
- Property transfers – spend sufficient time with the client to understand the motives behind the transaction and how this will affect the family dynamics
- Make sure you keep in touch with your clients as they get older
- Pay visits to the client at home to find out for yourself what is happening there
- Understand about their finances and estate
- Impress upon the client to involve you if they want to make any significant changes
Ann Stanyer is the author of Financial Abuse of Older Clients: Law, Practice and Prevention, which publishes in May 2017 and will also be part of our Family Law Service.