Coronavirus: Beware Predators!
It’s been reported this week that the Law Society is in discussions with the Ministry of Justice to consider bringing in new laws about wills. The legislation would change the requirements about the witnessing of wills and enable the quicker registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney.
Many elderly people and others who are potentially vulnerable to contracting coronavirus, will understandably be anxious to put their affairs in order. Any way that the legal profession can help with that is, of course, to be welcomed.
But the dark side of any crisis is that predators will use any opportunity presented to exploit those who are vulnerable.
It’s also possible that the ‘slippery slope’ of caring for an elderly or vulnerable person can, over time, lead to financial and/or other forms of abuse taking place by someone who would not ordinarily see themselves as a perpetrator.
What is financial abuse?
· Misappropriation of money or property.
· Misuse of assets.
· Exerting undue influence to give away assets or gifts or to make a will.
· Putting undue pressure on an older person to accept lower cost/lower quality services in order to preserve more financial resources to be passed to beneficiaries on death.
It is estimated that between 1% and 2% of people aged 65 or over in the United Kingdom today have suffered, or are currently suffering, financial abuse since turning 65.
A review for Help the Aged in 2008 found that 70% of financial abuse is perpetrated by family members and that 60% to 80% of financial abuse takes place in the home, with only 15% to 20% in residential care.
A startling statistic from the study was that 50% of financial abuse of the elderly in the UK is perpetrated by adult children against parents.
None of us want to think that the elderly and vulnerable members of our communities are at risk – but they are. We all need to be aware of the ‘red flags’ which could be an indicator of abuse. Please share and be aware of these behaviours:
· Being pressurised to lend money to a relative or friends.
· Being charged excessive amounts of money for services.
· People frequently requesting small amounts of money.
· Family members moving into your home without your consent and without prior agreement on sharing costs.
· Pressurising you to sign over your house or property.
· Taking money, cashing a cheque or using credit or debit cards without your permission.
· Pressuring you to change a will or sudden or unexpected changes in a will or other financial documents.
· Someone else taking charge of your benefits and not giving you all of your money.
· A change in living conditions or a lack of heating, clothing or food.0000
· Inability to pay bills/unexplained shortage of money.
· Unexplained withdrawals from an account.
· Unexplained loss/misplacement of financial documents.
· The recent addition of authorised signatories on a client or donor’s signature card.
· Failure to pay care home fees.
· Control of access to the victim or their home.