Older people can be particularly susceptible to financial abuse. We take a look at the forms it can take and some of the steps that can be taken to safeguard vulnerable individuals.
Financial abuse of the elderly can take many forms, from petty theft to defrauding someone of large sums of money. Older people can be more vulnerable as they may be dependent on others, have substantial assets, be lonely or isolated and not fully understand what is happening.
Types of elder financial abuse
Some common types of financial abuse of the elderly include:
- Items or cash could be taken from someone’s home by visitors or relatives
- Undue influence could be exerted over an individual by someone in a position of trust, persuading them to act in a way that is not in their best interests
- The older person could be persuaded to pay for work and repairs that are not needed
- Someone holding Lasting Power of Attorney could fail to act in the individual’s best interests
- Pensions or other benefits could be taken
- Money could be removed from cashpoints
- The person might be persuaded by someone hoping to inherit not to spend their money on things they might need, such as care or home help, to preserve their estate
Spotting financial abuse
Keeping an eye on older friends and relatives means you may be able to spot signs that something is wrong. Examples include:
- Bills that have not been paid
- Unexpected work being carried out at the property
- Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts
- Change in the amount of weekly or monthly expenditure
- A new person in someone’s life taking a very close interest in their affairs
- The reappearance of relatives who have not been in the person’s life for a while
- The individual does not appear to have adequate money for their needs although they should be able to afford them
- Disappearance of valuables or cash from the person’s home
- Isolation of the individual from their friends and family
- Abuse of power, such as by an attorney or deputy appointed to manage the person’s affairs
- A sudden change made to a Will
An older person who is suffering from financial abuse may become withdrawn or reluctant to discuss certain people or money matters. They could lose self-confidence and if they are left short of money or made to feel that they should not be spending it, they could have little food in the house or not put on the heating.
The risk is highest for those living alone, particularly if they are in poor health or in receipt of services.
Protecting older people from financial abuse
If you are a regular presence in an older person’s life, keep a lookout for any unusual changes. While they are entitled to their privacy, you can try to discuss any issues that are causing you concern.
Where you have solid suspicions, you could speak to the police. If the abuse is by an individual appointed to manage the older person’s affairs such as an attorney or deputy, you may be able to apply to the Court of Protection for the revocation of the Lasting Power of Attorney or the discharge of a deputy.
Prevention is the best way of protecting older people. Ensuring they have the support they need and that their affairs are structured securely will help.
A solicitor will be able to make some suggestions as to how to keep an individual’s assets protected as far as possible. This could include appointing more than one attorney to act under a Lasting Power of Attorney, reviewing an individual’s Will and taking steps to remove an attorney or deputy who is not acting in someone’s best interests.
If you would like to speak to one of our expert estate planners, ring us on 01634 353 658 or email us at [email protected]