Elder Financial Abuse – a client’s story

This story focuses on the work we did for a frail and elderly woman in her early 90s who wanted to recover money from a loan to a nephew.

Background

Our client approached Moores to prepare a new will and powers of attorney. Our client was in her early 90s and her only brother had passed away in recent years. She never married or had children and was feisty and independent. During our initial meeting, she mentioned that she was worried that her nephew was accessing her bank accounts via online access and withdrawing money. Our client also said she had transferred a large sum of money to him some years prior, and she wanted the money back.

The Problem

Our client wasn’t able to give us specific details about the transfer of money to her nephew, or particular transactions of concern. While our client had some documents at home that she had brought in, it was a considerable task for her to provide us with what we needed given her advanced age.

The Solution

We needed to understand what had happened – if anything – before we could recommend a strategy. Our first step was to obtain copies of our client’s bank account statements, the terms and conditions for those accounts and any authority to operate forms. We identified that the money our client recalled transferring to her nephew had actually been transferred to his family trust, so we also obtained copies of the trust deed and other trust related documents. We mostly worked with our client by phone, and used post and courier (in the absence of email) – on occasion she would attend our office by taxi. The use of Excel to analyse the financial data over a decade allowed us to see a large number of transactions that seemed out of place.

The Outcome

We obtained instructions to write to and meet with our client’s nephew. At that meeting, our client’s nephew provided further documents and explained a number of transactions, and asked us to continue discussions with his lawyer.

There were a number of factual and legal issues in dispute such as:

  • Were the funds transferred to his family trust a gift or a loan or something else?
  • What were the explanations for the many bank account transactions?
  • And what was the nephew’s role and legal obligations? 

The family trust was fully flexible, which meant there was no simple legal mechanism to compel repayment of the funds to our client. By working through the issues constructively with his lawyer, we were able to neutralise or resolve a large number of matters.

The outcome we achieved for our client was that the nephew paid to her over 80% of what we had sought on her behalf without the need to resort to any legal action or a protracted process.

How we can help

Moores is one of the few law firms in Australia that has a practice and is expert in elder financial abuse and elder law. For more information or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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