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The rise of financial abuse of the elderly

It is a sad but unavoidable fact that financial abuse of the elderly in the UK keeps rising. Worse still is the fact that most of this type of abuse is committed by family members.

A recent publication by KPMG indicates that the main perpetrator of this type of fraud is the ‘baby boomer’, who decides that rather than waiting for a gift or inheritance, they will just help themselves to funds. The vast majority of perpetrators were over the age of 45.

Even more alarming is that this is likely to be the mere tip of the iceberg. Many victims are reluctant to make allegations against family members either because of embarrassment, pride or a sense of loyalty. Often financial abuse does not come to light until after a victim has passed away.

There has been a host of litigation concerning alleged financial mismanagement and abuse in connection with a number of high-profile figures and their estates. The most recent is that of the blues singer, BB King. Of his 15 children, five have made allegations against the late singer’s business manager ranging from looting of bank accounts to poisoning. We will have to wait and see which – if any – of those allegations turn out to be true.

While the kind of money at stake in the estate of the late BB King might amount to millions, the majority of people affected by these issues have estates that may be relatively modest. Irrespective of the size of the estate however, disputes in this area are not only messy and emotionally charged, they are also very expensive.

As with many things, prevention is better than the cure and it is well worth everybody, not just the elderly, thinking carefully about the appointment of a trustworthy person to act as an attorney who can act in the event of lost mental capacity. In some cases, it might be appropriate to bypass family members and appoint a professional attorney. While this will incur a charge, it might have the positive effect of avoiding squabbles between offspring and taking temptation away from a would-be familial fraudster. Very clear guidelines to family members, in particular on the subject of ‘gifts’ and ‘loans’ would also really help bring some clarity to any disputes which arise.

If, having read this article, you would like further information regarding Powers of Attorney or if you have any concerns that the estate of a loved one has been subject to financial abuse then please contact Tracey Leathley on tleathley@lyonsdavidson.co.uk or 0113 368 7810.

Posted on Nov 20th, 2015 by Lyons Davidson