According to the Province, there may be as many as 150,000 seniors being victimized in Ontario. One common form of abuse is financial. If you are concerned about someone close to you being victimized, these are some signs to watch out for:
- Has the Power of Attorney been changed?
- Is the elderly person suddenly short of money to pay for living expenses?
- Has the elderly person been brought to sign legal documents they say they don’t understand?
- Have large gifts or transfers of money taken place?
Options If You See An Elderly Person Being Financially Abused
Call the Police.
The problem is that while the provincial government recognizes that the financial abuse of the elderly is horribly wrong, it is not always viewed as a crime. Furthermore, the police will sometimes view accusations against a power of attorney as a family dispute not warranting police charges.
Call the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.
In the context of my practice I have dealt with the Public Guardian and Trustee a lot. They are altruistic and genuinely interested in helping the elderly. The problem is that they are under resourced and view themselves as a last resort.
Educate yourself on the issues and get Legal Help. An excellent place to start is with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) a community based legal clinic for low income senior citizens.
Call a lawyer who is certified specialist in Estates and Trusts.
If you decide to hire a lawyer there are a number of options open to you. If a power of attorney abused their position the court can remove him, and appoint a new guardian of person. Powers of Attorney have to keep accurate records and receipts of all money received and spent. The courts take this duty very seriously may order that the attorney have to pass his accounts. If that Power of Attorney has been unjustly enriched at the expense of the elderly person then the court may order restitution. If it proves difficult to find the assets in their original form the court may provide a tracing order.
For the clients, recognizing that abuse has taken place is ½ the battle. The other ½ is finding the courage to challenge a relative or loved one who is victimizing the elderly. It’s recognizing that the courts focus in on the needs of the elderly incapable person first and foremost. If you recognize a victim of financial elder abuse it’s always a good idea for you to seek out the counsel of a qualified lawyer who specializes in this niche area of the law and has the expertise to guide you in your decision making process.
It’s not just about the law. It’s also about knowing the process well enough to determine whether the prospects of success warrant the economic and emotional investment.
Call us for more information.