When Laura called me at the urging of her own financial advisor, she was in a crisis. Her father, Jack, age 95 lived in another state and was in a nursing home. She and her sister were worried about a problem: their brother Robbie was taking advantage of their dad and no one was stopping him.
Robbie had been sponging off of Dad for years, Laura told me. She knew Jack probably had dementia, and she had been appointed his Power of Attorney agent, but the transition had not happened yet for her to take over his finances. Robbie had flown out to see Dad from the state where Robbie lived. He took his frail father to Jack’s financial advisor and had his Dad ask the advisor to give Dad a cashier’s check for $50,000. The advisor knew that his client was being manipulated into asking for the money but he gave it to Jack anyway. It was not as if Jack was extremely wealthy. He had limited funds in the account.
Then Jack, with Robbie prodding him, asked his advisor to give him a debit card for his cash management account. The advisor knew full well that Jack’s money could go out the door and into Robbie’s pocket. He decided to deal with the potential abuse by “dragging his feet” for three months. He knew Laura and knew that she was Jack’s agent on his legal documents. He called her describing the call as “on the Q.T”and told Laura that he “had” to comply with the request for the debit card. Laura insisted as the power of attorney that the card should be mailed to her. After she got it, I advised her to destroy it.
The estate attorney who had prepared Jack’s trust knew that Laura should take over her position as Jack’s successor, but he failed to urge her to do so right away. He also failed to give her enough direction about how to accomplish this so she could stop any other actions by Robbie to get Jack’s money. This was one professional failure—the lawyer did not recognize the urgency nor try enough to stop elder abuse.
When I met with Laura, I instructed her exactly how to get the needed doctors’ reports on Dad to meet the requirements Jack’s trust had in it that would permit her to take over responsibility for him. She did so at my urging, right away. I encouraged her to immediately give Dad’s advisor a letter instructing him to cease any transactions initiated by Jack as Jack did indeed have dementia and the doctors had verified that he was no longer capable of managing his affairs. She did that, too. It had also come to light that Robbie had gotten Dad to transfer funds into an account to which Robbie had access and that Robbie had already nearly drained that account of another $30,000.
I sat with Laura and helped her draft a firm letter to Robbie letting him know that the end had come for manipulating Dad and that she was now in charge. He was furious! Ugly emails from Robbie and threats followed. The saga did not end there, but with help, Laura was able to stop any further financial abuse of her father.
The second and most distressing failure of a professional in this true story was the action by Jack’s financial advisor. He did not seem to have any idea of what to do to stop elder abuse that he admitted was going on in dealing with his client
The takeaway here is that every advisor who sees potential elder abuse can and should do much more to protect an elderly client from this kind of manipulation. Every professional has to give up being a slave to the outdated notion that you always have to do what a client says even if the client is seriously impaired. That impaired person is not the client you signed up and you must address this problem.
Learn 5 things every professional should do when you suspect financial abuse by clicking HERE for your free tip sheet.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney
Dr. Mikol Davis, Psychologist, Gerontologist