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Elder Abuse

In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of elderly people who have been the victim of abuse. Elder abuse can take many forms, including emotional abuse, violence or neglect. However, the most common form of abuse experienced by elderly individuals is financial abuse.

Statistics show that financial abuse of the elderly is most likely to be perpetrated by someone close to the elderly individual, such as a family member or close friend. However, this type of abuse can also be carried out by carers or fraudsters.

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What is financial elder abuse?

Financial elder abuse can appear in many forms. Some obvious examples are scammers targeting older people, or family members helping themselves to money from online bank accounts. However, financial abuse is not always so clear cut.

It can also consist of things like:

  • Overcharging for services
  • Coercing elderly people to change their Will or sign transfer of ownership documents
  • ‘Borrowing’ property or money without the individual’s knowledge
  • Pressuring elderly people into giving large monetary gifts
  • Forging signatures on cheques or other documents
  • Misusing power of attorney documentation or not carrying out duties properly
  • Restricting the elderly person’s access to their own financial affairs
  • Persuading elderly people to accept cheaper care provision in order to protect the family’s inheritance
  • Using an elderly person’s bank card without their permission
Elder Abuse 1

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How to protect against elder abuse

It’s awful to think that you or a loved one might be targeted simply because of age or declining health. Whether you want to protect yourself or an older family member, there are steps you can take to safeguard against this.

Speak to a solicitor about LPAs and wills

Legal documents such as Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) and a Will can help to make an elderly person’s finances less vulnerable to abuse.

If you haven’t yet made these important legal documents, we recommend that you speak to a solicitor about doing so. If you do already have a Will or LPA in place, you may wish to review them with a solicitor to ensure they’re still valid and up to date.

Know the signs to look out for with fraudulent phone calls/emails

Elderly people are more likely to be targeted by fraudsters as they often assume older people will be less able to spot the signs of a scam. You can counteract this by familiarising yourself or your loved one with common types of fraud and how to avoid them. Age UK have some excellent resources available for this.

Choose and monitor carers carefully

If you or your elderly relative require care, either in the home or in a care facility, it will be important to make sure you carefully consider all the options available.

The majority of care providers take their responsibilities very seriously, but close family members should still expect to play a key role in engaging with care plans and monitoring how successfully they are being carried out.

Keep an eye out for warning signs

One of the best ways to protect elderly relatives from financial abuse is to keep in regular contact and look out for warning signs. These could include:

  • Changes in spending habits
  • Additional names being added to bank accounts
  • Cash withdrawals that can’t be explained
  • Unpaid bills
  • Reluctance to talk openly about their financial situation
  • Sudden interest from friends or family members who have not previously been very involved
  • Reluctance to spend money on usual expenses
  • Heightened levels of stress and anxiety

What should you do if you think your loved one is a victim of elder abuse?

If you think your loved one is being targeted for elder abuse, it’s important to act as soon as possible. The Action on Elder Abuse helpline is a helpful resource for initial advice. You can call them on 0808 8088 141.

If your loved one has been subject to financial abuse, we’d recommend speaking to a solicitor who has experience in this area. They will be able to advise you on whether you may be able to take legal action against the perpetrator.

It’s also important to seek specialist legal advice if you uncover evidence of financial abuse during the process of administering an estate.

Talk to our team on how to help an elderly relative

If your loved one has been subject to financial abuse, we’d recommend speaking to a solicitor who has experience in this area.

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Help & Expert Guides

Frequently Asked Questions

It can be very difficult to know how to proceed with Elderly Abuse. This is why we’ve put together these FAQs to help you know what to expect. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about any areas of Elder Abuse that you would like to learn more about  – our Elder Abuse solicitors will be more than happy to help you. 

Elder abuse is recognised as a crime and is therefore illegal.

There are various ways to take action against someone who has committed elder abuse. How you go about this will depend on the type of abuse. Some types of financial abuse should be reported to the police, while others might be better suited to a legal claim. A solicitor who is experienced in matters of elder abuse will be able to advise you on how to proceed in your particular circumstances.

It’s reasonably common to only find evidence of financial abuse during the process of administering an estate. If this happens, we advise seeking specialist legal advice as soon as possible.

Some forms of elder abuse could mean that a Will is considered invalid. For example, this would be the case if there was evidence to suggest that family members or other individuals had pressured or deceived the elderly individual into making the Will.

Acting as an attorney (named in an LPA) or a deputy (appointed by the Court of Protection) is a big responsibility. If an attorney or deputy is not carrying out their role properly, this can be considered elder abuse. In some situations, the problem may be that the attorney/deputy has misunderstood their responsibilities or has underestimated the work involved. In others, they may be deliberately misusing funds. If you have any concerns about an attorney or deputy and how they are carrying out their duties, you should contact the Office of the Public Guardian and/or a solicitor as soon as possible.

It is relatively common for close family members to help elderly individuals to manage their bank accounts. This might be because the elderly person is unfamiliar with technology or because they find it difficult to get to a bank or cash machine themselves. If the elderly person has given their express permission for this, this is perfectly legal. In these circumstances, they would usually need to give this permission formally through their bank.

However, it is not legal to use an elderly person’s bank card without their permission. It is also illegal to use an elderly person’s bank card on their behalf if they no longer have the mental capacity to make this decision, even if they gave you permission in the past. If your relative no longer has mental capacity, only their attorney (named in an LPA) or their deputy (appointed by the Court of Protection) will be able to manage their finances.

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