Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back

Know the Law: Exploitation of Elderly Can Begin with Modest Gifts

Written by: Ralph F. Holmes

Published in the Union Leader (8/29/2016)

Q: I am concerned that my sister may be financially exploiting our elderly mother.  What can I do?

A: Sadly, your situation is not unique.  Much of my practice involves helping families step in to protect a parent from exploitation or to try to get the parent’s money and property back after it’s been taken by an exploiter.

So long as she is capacitated and is free from undue influence, your mom has the right to do what she wants with her property, including to favor one child over another.  It’s only when a person loses the ability to manage her affairs that the law provides a remedy to a concerned family member.

The process of decline for an elderly person may be gradual and at times may be difficult to discern.  An elderly person might seem fine in the morning and confused in the evening. 

Some family members may see nothing wrong and others may see significant decline. 

The signs of incapacity can include confusion, trouble managing financial and other affairs, neglect of hygiene, and emotional and psychological changes.

Often financial exploitation begins innocently enough as expense reimbursements or modest gifts.  These modest beginnings in time can sometimes lead to extravagant exploitation. 

If you think your mother may be incapacitated and might be at risk for exploitation, you should act now rather than wait and discover that there is nothing left years later when she passes or needs funds for her medical care.  So, what can you do?

First, if you have reason to believe that your mother is incapacitated and has been subjected to abuse, neglect, exploitation or self-neglect, the law requires you to make a report immediately to the Bureau of Elderly & Adult Services (BEAS), which can be reached at (800) 949-0470.

Second, you can ask the Probate Court to find that your mother does not have the capacity to manage her affairs and to appoint a guardian to make decisions for her.  To ensure that your mother’s rights are protected, there will be a trial in which her inability to manage her affairs and the need for a guardian will have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Finally, you should consider asking your sister whether she has been given a power of attorney by your mother and, if so, ask her to provide an accounting of her actions in that capacity. 

Ralph F. Holmes can be reached at [email protected] and is a leading contributor of the law resource ProbateTrial.com.

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by McLane Middleton, Professional Association.   We invite your questions of business law.  Questions and ideas for future columns should be addressed to:  McLane Middleton, 900 Elm Street, Manchester, NH 03101 or emailed to [email protected].  Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.

Integrity and trust

At McLane Middleton we establish and maintain long-standing relationships with our clients to help us better achieve their unique goals over time. This approach to building trust requires that our esteemed lawyers and professionals use their broad, in-depth knowledge and work together with integrity to ascertain sound resolutions to legal matters for their clients.

Strength in numbers

McLane Middleton is made up of more than 105 attorneys who represent a broad range of clients throughout the region, delivering customized solutions. As a firm we are recognized as having the highest legal ability rating. The firm is rated Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell and is recognized as one of the nation's leading law firms in Chambers USA. Our attorneys are distinguished leaders in their respective practice areas.

Meet Our People

Commitment and collaboration

McLane Middleton's versatile group of attorneys and paralegals become trusted authorities on each case through collaboration. We work with our clients to learn their individual needs first and foremost and, together, we develop comprehensive solutions to their specific legal matters. This approach helps us exceed our clients' expectations efficiently and effectively, client by client, case by case.

Practice Areas

A history of excellence

McLane Middleton was established in 1919 in New Hampshire, and has five offices across two states. However, deep historical roots don't allow you to become innate. Our firm is organized, technological, and knowledgeable. Our history means we are recognized. But our reputation is built on the highest quality of service and experience in very specific areas of law.

The Firm

Intelligence paired with action

Our team continuously seeks opportunities to enhance their professional development and put key learnings to action. The pursuit of further insight guides us to volunteer service opportunities, speaking engagements, and teaching roles. Our lawyers are sought after thought leaders across their industries, and recipients of leadership awards throughout the region.