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Law has remedies for the financial abuse of elders


Law has remedies for the financial abuse of elders

Elder abuse is a scourge in our society and it’s often brought on by “inheritance impatience”, writes DON MACPHERSON.

Sadly, the abuse of our elders usually comes from a child or grandchild, who prevails upon them to provide them a benefit. This has the effect of diminishing the resources of the elderly person often at a time when they can least afford it.

The abuse can be direct, such as simply taking money from an account to which the younger person has been given access to assist the elderly person.

Often the bank accounts are cleaned out, or slowly whittled away, by the trusted child or relative.

It can be subtle and indirect, such as manoeuvring the elder into financial transactions that are unsuitable for the elder, but which are of great benefit to the younger person. This might be loans on little or no interest to assist with purchasing a property or investments in the younger person’s business, with limited prospects of repayment.

One example we have recently come across in the latter category was a child arranging for a parent to purchase a property in joint names, as joint tenants, rather than as tenants in common.

Properties purchased as joint tenants (as is the common practice with married couples) upon the death of one of the co-owners automatically go to the survivor. The transfer occurs regardless of any statement in a will, effectively passing outside the will.

When the joint tenants are a parent and child, the likelihood is that the child will survive the parent, and thereby inherit the whole property.

Where there are other children, that arrangement can have the effect of benefiting the joint tenant child disproportionately in comparison with the other children.

There are remedies available through the law to protect against elder abuse, and in many cases to undo transactions that have been entered into inappropriately, but these matters are complex, and time is always of the essence.

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