Posted on 9.6.15 by Val Bown
The recent sad case of Olive Cooke, a 92 year old lady from Bristol who took her own life, highlights another area of vulnerability for the elderly; she had previously complained about the large number of requests she received from charities for donations. We are all familiar with cases of elderly people falling victim to lottery scams and rogue traders, but it is particularly worrying to think that charitable organisations, for which they have a high regard, would use high pressure sales techniques to extract larger and larger donations from them. The fundamental belief of that generation in the importance of helping good causes, of ‘putting something back’, together with their innate politeness and courtesy, makes it much harder for them to resist a persistent telephone caller who knows how to tug at the heartstrings on behalf of ill-treated animals or sick children.
Members of the group, Solicitors for the Elderly, to which the Gorvins Private Client team belongs, have encountered numerous cases of elderly clients struggling financially after signing up to too many direct debits in favour of charities. Sign up to one, and mysteriously more and more of them beat a path to your door! Then they pester you to increase your donation again and again.
If you have elderly relatives or friends, it is another danger to watch out for. It is often the case that someone you always considered strong-minded enough to withstand such pressure can quickly become more vulnerable even whilst appearing to remain in control of their affairs.
If you have Power of Attorney for an elderly person, it is something you will be able to control, protecting them from such demands. However, as with the scams, it may not be quite so simple, as the elderly person may feel embarrassed about their ‘stupidity’ in getting into this mess in the first place and become secretive about where their money is going. As an attorney in such a situation, you might find yourself playing a delicate psychological game, gradually persuading your parent, aunt or uncle that they are not obliged to agree to every charitable request. You may have to persuade them to put their own needs first, particularly in their final years, when they may need to pay for care services or for adaptations to their home to maintain their independence.
An attorney’s duty to act in the donor’s best interests does not always mean carrying out the donor’s wishes to the letter, but it can be a difficult balance to find the right way forward and keep your donor happy whilst protecting them from exploitation.
if you are worried about an elderly relative or are looking to become Power of Attorney over a family member or friend, feel free to contact a member of the Wills, Trusts and Probate team on 0161 930 5117 who can talk you through the process regarding your specific situation.