Book Review: Financial Abuse of Older Clients: Law, Practice & Prevention
Author: Ann Stanyer | Published by Bloomsbury Professional | ISBN 9781784515492
The stated hope for this book is to “add to the debate about the impact financial abuse is having and how solicitors and others can be proactive in protecting their elderly clients.” Ann references her personal experience of nearly 30 years as a private client solicitor, during which time she has seen how easy it is for the elderly to be taken advantage of by either close family or those employed by family, to care for that elderly person. The trusting nature of the elderly, coupled with increasingly complex dealings with financial institutions which may intimidate them to deal with matters themselves, all lead to ripe pickings for the unscrupulous.
The book is wide ranging and begins by focusing on financial abuse: this includes discussing what financial abuse actually is, who is vulnerable, who the perpetrators might be and the different forms it might take, such as unauthorised gifts. Of great interest to practitioners, there is a section on how to prevent financial abuse and the steps to take when it is discovered. This section may cause the practitioner to re-examine their ideas about financial abuse, while also giving them practical tools to assist with what steps should be followed on finding abuse.
There is then a section on delegating decision-making (EPAs, LPAs, Deputyships for example) together with information on what the courts can do when attorneys fall out. The section on “Other Issues” looks at such matters as conflicts of interest and the thorny issue of confidentiality vs disclosure.
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Before covering some foreign aspects and suggested reforms, there is a section on protecting the individual and the recovery of assets. Ann concludes by making out a case for having a Minister for the Elderly to counter the lack of attention and priority given to this area by the Government.
Structure & layout
Although a comparatively slim volume, the book comprises 11 chapters, with some chapters, such as the one on other issues, being subdivided further so greater detail can be provided. There is an appendix with tools such as a financial abuse warning card for professionals.
The first six chapters of the book look at different aspects of financial abuse. It is perhaps fitting for a book entitled Financial Abuse that these chapters take up almost one half of the 275 odd content pages.
After the initial chapters looking at such matters as indicators of abuse, characteristics of an elderly victim and definitions of just what is meant by ‘vulnerable’, the fourth chapter then focuses on abuse perpetrators and looks at areas such as their motivation and usefully, lessons to be learnt from research into abuse.
The fifth chapter is necessarily one of the longest and drills down into the forms that financial abuse can take. Unauthorised gifts by attorneys as well as deputies, banking including the use of joint accounts, investments, property transactions and undue influence are all examined in turn.
Chapter six looks at how abuse can be prevented and the steps to be taken on its discovery. This includes setting out the role of the Office of the Public Guardian, together with its supervisory and investigatory powers. There is useful information on safeguarding powers, rights of entry and when the police should be involved.
Chapter seven addresses delegating decision-making powers to others, looking at informal arrangements such as appointeeship before then turning to examine Enduring and Lasting Powers of Attorney and Deputyship.
Chapter eight looks at “other issues” which include care allowances, issues surrounding lifetime gifts, conflicts of interest and confidentiality and disclosure.
Chapter nine looks at the protection of individuals and the recovery of assets and has a useful section detailing the practical steps that individuals, rather than practitioners, can take to safeguard against abuse. Could this be made available to your clients to enable them to plan ahead to prevent abuse for themselves?
The tenth chapter briefly covers some foreign aspects, looking at what can be learnt about safeguarding and protection from a limited number of other countries.
The eleventh and concluding chapter looks at possible reforms and includes the author’s suggestions on recommended safeguards, such as the random calling in of accounts for attorneys and better training of all frontline staff in institutions such as banks and solicitors alike.
This book is, as a whole, a useful toolkit to carry around and consult as needed. References are made throughout to actual clients and scenarios Ann has encountered in her nearly 30 years in practice, adding to the practical element and ease of applicability of the law covered.
Relevant cases are referred to but care should be taken, as with any book, that the case law is up to date given subsequent cases may have modified the law or raised awareness of further issues.
Relevant Law Society and OPG practice notes are signposted throughout.
The appendix has three useful tools:
- a template starting point for an LPA donor’s statement of wishes;
- a warning card of indicators of financial abuse for professionals to be on the look out for, together with suggested action to be taken; and
- a table of statistics from Court of Protection cases 2014-2016.
Clarity & readability
The main feature of this book is its succinct and easy to read style. Private Client practitioners are kept engaged throughout by examples of actual clients from Ann’s many years in practice, which assist with showing how relevant this issue is for all private client practitioners and can help us identify any possible cases with our own clients.
Relevance to practitioners
This book highlights a sadly ever-growing area. It brings together useful information on areas practitioners might not have come across regularly, such as rights of entry, as well as highlighting the possible extent of the issue, thus reminding us all to be on our guard for the financial abuse of older clients.
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