Protecting the rights and welfare of the elderly and vulnerable.
Advocating for vulnerable individuals
Caring for the elderly and the vulnerable can have its challenges, but most people want to know that they are doing a good job in protecting that person’s interests and ensuring that they are well looked after. It is unfortunately not uncommon to hear in the news that a vulnerable person has been mistreated by their caregivers or taken advantage of. Some common topical issues include predatory marriages, financial abuse and safeguarding issues in residential homes.
The practice of predatory marriage involves a vulnerable person getting married (often without their knowledge or on false pretences) to financially benefit their new spouse. What many people fail to realise is that, under the Wills Act 1837, marriage will revoke any existing will. This means that even if somebody has a will in place, if they then get married, it is as though that will did not exist and their estate would be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. Under the intestacy rules, a new spouse would be set to gain the most, if not everything, from the estate.
Similarly, vulnerable people can often fall victim to financial abuse from their new spouse or partner, or even family or friends who are in a position of trust. Any concern about financial abuse should be thoroughly investigated.
There are steps that can be taken to either prevent a predatory marriage from taking place, or to get the marriage annulled. It is prudent for the person in question to make a new will following their marriage, to ensure that their estate is still distributed in the way that they want. Unfortunately the preparation of a new will could also be influenced by their new spouse, so special care is needed to make sure this does not happen.
If you believe that someone you know might be in danger of falling victim to predatory marriage or financial abuse, seeking legal advice at the earliest opportunity is very important.
The Care Act statutory guidance defines ‘adult safeguarding’ as “protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect”. This can extend to the way in which they are treated by caregivers either in their own home or in a residential home setting, or it could even be the way in which someone is dealing with their assets or money on their behalf.
People with higher care or support needs or disabilities will be at higher risk of safeguarding issues, often because they may not be able to identify or acknowledge that they are being the victim of abuse.
It can often become apparent that another family member, or someone in a position of trust (such as an attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney) has been misappropriating or mishandling money. They could be spending the vulnerable person’s money on items which are clearly for themselves, withdrawing money frequently for unexplained expenses, or even making payments to third parties.
Where there is any kind of safeguarding issue, whether it is how a person is being treated or if it is linked to financial abuse, it is important to keep clear records and gather any evidence you can in support of your concerns.
Our Contested Probate Team understand that elder and financial abuse is a highly emotive and sensitive topic. They will guide you through the options that you have available, to ensure that your loved one is protected and supported as best as possible.
For more information on how we can help you, please contact us.
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