Financial abuse warning signs and remedies for practitioners with elderly clients

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

Client's demeanour:

  • 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

Finally:

  • 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.

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