Financial abuse, described as “types of mistreatment where someone forcibly controls another person’s money and/ or financial assets” seems to be getting more media coverage in recent months.

Statistics for 2012-2013 revealed financial abuse allegations accounted for 18% of all allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults (or 24,330 cases). It is likely that figure is actually much higher with many unreported cases.

Older people, particularly those with dementia are at the greatest risk of financial abuse.

There have been a number of stories published in newspapers recently regarding the Court of Protection having to step in when attorneys or deputies have misused their powers and not acted in the best interests of the donor. One example involves the case of two women, who had been appointed by the Court of Protection to handle the finances of their elderly relative, were stripped of their responsibilities after it emerged they had spent more than £230,000 on “gifts” and more than £45,000 in “expenses”. Following the death of the elderly relative, a judge then ordered that the names of the deceased and the perpetrators of the abuse could be named.

As this case highlights, many cases of financial abuse are committed by deputies (those appointed by the Court of Protection) or attorneys, the very people who are appointed to look after and manage the finances of people who do not have capacity to make their own sound financial decisions. In these cases, it can be difficult to spot the signs of financial abuse, or if wrongdoing is suspected, even more difficult to prove. Sadly, in many cases the facts do not reveal themselves until after the person’s death.

There are a number of signs of financial abuse, including but not limited to:

  • Signatures that do not resemble the older person’s signature, or signed when the older person cannot write.
  • Sudden changes in bank accounts, or unexplained large withdrawals.
  • The unexplained sudden transfer of assets to somebody else
  • Deliberate isolation of an older person from friends and family, resulting in the caregiver alone having total control.
  • Numerous unpaid bills, overdue rent, when someone else is supposed to be paying the bills or apparent lack of amenities that the older person should be able to afford

Prevention of financial abuse, as the saying goes is better than a cure. But if you do suspect financial abuse has taken place, you can seek advice from our Court of Protection advisors, Sarah Young and Helen Dandridge. They can advise you whether the victim is still alive or if you have discovered the activities after the death of a loved one. Please get in touch and Sarah or Helen will be happy to help.

For more information please visit our website section on contentious probate.