When our elderly client’s property had been sold and the sale proceeds were kept by her son, extended family became concerned that our client had been taken advantage of by someone she trusted the most. Fortunately, we successfully negotiated settlement of this matter and recovered the funds.
Our client (‘Mrs P’), was in her 80’s and owned a residence in the Western Suburbs of Sydney where she had resided for quite some time. Mrs P had a fall in January 2018 and was admitted to hospital for treatment. Hospital records identified cognitive issues at this time. Following her discharge, Mrs P made a power of attorney appointing her son to deal with her financial affairs.
In October 2018, Mrs P’s property was sold for $495,000.00, and she relocated to Tasmania to live with her son and his wife in a house they had just purchased. The son used $220,000.00 of the proceeds to purchase this property and the remaining proceeds were kept in an account held in the name of the son and his wife. It was alleged that these funds were available to Mrs P when she required.
Becoming concerned, family members travelled to Tasmania to retrieve Mrs P and take her to Queensland to live with her siblings and extended family. Upon review of her financial affairs, it became apparent that Mrs P’s pension had stopped due to social security gifting provisions, as a result of the sale proceeds being used by her son, and she did not have any income or savings.
Furthermore, on medical assessment, Mrs P was diagnosed with cognitive impairment, as well as a low level of education, literacy and numeracy. These factors raised concerns as to whether Mrs P fully understood and/or agreed to the sale of her property, relocation to Tasmania and the use of the proceeds by her son and his wife.
Upon advice given to our client’s niece (‘Mrs X’), Mrs X applied to the Queensland Administrative and Civil Tribunal in January 2020 where an order was made for the revocation of the son’s appointment as attorney, and Mrs X was formally appointed as Mrs P’s financial manager and enduring guardian.
Mrs P instructed Catherine Henry Lawyers to act in respect to the recovery of the proceeds. Mrs P’s son and his wife alleged that $220,000.00 of the proceeds were gifted to them. A caveat was lodged on the Tasmanian property in order to protect Mrs P’s interest. Following this, the parties reached an agreement in which the son and wife were to obtain finance and return the full sale proceeds to our client, Mrs P.
While this is a great result for Mrs P, it would be better if Mrs P was never placed in this situation. Thankfully, awareness of financial elder abuse is growing and increasingly there are steps being put in place to protect the vulnerable in our community.
If you find yourself in this situation or are aware of a loved one that is potentially exposed to these issues, please contact our Wills and Estates and Elder Law team for expert advice.