It is a sad fact that in recent years there has been a large increase in the number of reported cases of financial abuse of elderly victims.
Recently, Age UK published a survey showing that an estimated 103,000 calls were made to adult protection helplines with around 26,000 of those callers reporting financial abuse.
Needless to say, the calls in the main related to elderly people with limited mental capacity due to degenerative diseases, such as, Alzheimer’s.
In fact, fraud against the elderly has become such an issue that last summer the Government gave legal definition through the Care Act, creating a policy to safeguard the most vulnerable.
Those looking after the financial affairs of vulnerable individuals must ensure that all financial choices are in the best interests of the individual and do all they can to help them understand any decisions made.
For instance, if an attorney or deputy (a person appointed by the Court of Protection) was investing financially on behalf of a person, they would have to ensure that the person they were assisting had a basic understanding of what was being proposed.
It is difficult, but if it became apparent that someone had reduced mental capacity, then their financial carer must help them come to their own decision and take all practical steps to do this.
Attorneys and deputies cannot profit from any decision they make on behalf of another, including providing assistance with making a will for a person or helping them alter their will.
Also, they must take great care when holding money or property on behalf of another and even when carrying out small tasks, such as shopping or paying utility bills, money must be kept separate.
Casual carers and family members can in some circumstances arrange a “third party mandate,” which is an instruction to a person’s bank to provide access to their account, to someone such as a carer. This can specifically say what authority is being given, and the amount of access can be limited. Of course, the bank would need to be satisfied that the person understood the authority being given and the third party would not usually be given a card to access money from ATM’s.
As you can see, it is something of a minefield. We would, therefore advise that those in this position do your utmost to provide clarity and transparency in all their actions as this is an area where those involved need to tread very carefully.
If you need help in this delicate matter, please ask us at Dale & Newbery in Staines. We are available by calling 01784 464491 and are happy to assist you.