In light of October 1st being National Seniors Day in Canada, today’s blog post will focus on a growing area of concern – financial elder abuse. There are several things you can be on the lookout for in your practice to make sure you never help facilitate it.

Let us tell you about a diligent lawyer named Faye who refused to act when she suspected an elderly father was being taken advantage of by his son, Jack.

Jack attended Faye’s office seeking someone to act for his father in a mortgage refinance. Jack presented a homemade power of attorney where he was the named attorney for his father under a continuing power of attorney for property. Faye sought to verify the validity of the power of attorney by contacting Jack’s father. With much difficulty, a call was eventually setup by the bank where Faye spoke to Jack’s father.  When questioned about the mortgage, he stated he was confused, or deferred questions to Jack. When asked directly if the father understood his son was taking a loan against his house he responded “No”.  At that point, Faye refused to act in the transaction.

As a real estate lawyer, you have an important role to play as one of the gatekeepers to a property transfer and/or granting a mortgage. You are in a unique position to identify and prevent financial abuse of the elderly. Consider implementing these best practices/strategies in your office:

  • Never lose sight of who your client is. If a son/daughter/spouse is doing all the talking in the client intake meeting but they are not your client, it is always a good idea to politely ask the son/daughter/spouse to briefly step out of the room. A client may be more comfortable to be forthcoming if they are one on one with you.
  • Be wary of letting the caregiver/family member be the translator in instances where you and your client do not speak the same language. It is recommended that for at least one meeting an independent third party interpreter is used to make sure that your client understands and consents to the transaction.
  • Verify Power of Attorney Documents.. You should be comfortable where possible that the donor consents to the transaction and that the power of attorney is valid and its use is not being abused.

Please share this blog post as it is very important that everyone is aware elder abuse is a widespread problem in all of our communities. In the words of former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, “The distressing crime of elder abuse often occurs in quiet, private settings, making a vocal, public response that much more important. Let us strengthen our resolve to end this problem as part of our broader efforts to create a life of dignity for all.”

DISCLAIMER: The names and other identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

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