Elder abuse is a growing area of concern among legal, medical and social work professionals. As individuals age, they often become vulnerable to abuse including subtle abuse in the form of financial manipulation by family members or caregivers. Even if the elder is aware of the abuse, there may be little he or she can do to stop it from happening.
The Canadian Centre for Elder Law defines elder financial abuse as the illegal or improper use of funds or assets, such as theft or fraud. Elder financial abuse in Vancouver takes on many different forms including:
- Stealing: Including a senior’s money, pension or possessions.
- Fraud: Committing fraud, forgery or extortion against the elderly person.
- Unduly pressuring: Includes pressuring a senior citizen to do any act such as:
- Selling or transferring personal property
- Investing or withdrawing or giving money
- Buying drugs or alcohol
- Making or changing a will
When an individual becomes mentally incapable of managing his or her healthcare and financial affairs, either as a result of aging or perhaps from an accident or illness, the Court may appoint a person to protect the interests of and make decisions on behalf of that individual. Sometimes people think of this person as the Legal Guardian of the mentally incapable person, however, in British Columbia the legal term for the person appointed to manage the affairs of the mentally incapable adult is called a Committee.
In many cases, it is necessary to secure a legal committeeship, also known as a guardianship, over a family member. Such committees are appointed under the Patients Property Act and are typically a family member. If no family member can serve as committee, the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) will assume that role. (The PGT is also automatically appointed statutory property guardian (similar to a committee) under the Adult Guardianship Act of an adult for whom a certificate of incapability has been issued by certain government designated medical professionals.) Committees may be appointed to make financial and legal decisions and/or to make personal care and health care decisions.
The two types of committee are:
- Committee of the estate, which gives the committee authority over financial, business and legal decisions.
- Committee of the person, which relates only to health and medical
If you are concerned about the decision-making ability of a family member and wish to be given the legal authority to manage the affairs of your loved one, it is important to speak to a B.C. Committeeship lawyer.
Cases We Handle
- Financial elder abuse including fraud
- Patients Property Act disputes
- Committeeship applications
- Disputes involving representatives pursuant to Representation Agreements
- Disputes involving attorneys pursuant to Powers of Attorney
Vancouver Representation Agreements
The Representation Agreement Actallows an individual to appoint someone as their legal representative to handle routine financial, legal, personal care and health care decisions when a person is unable to make those decisions on their own. A Representation Agreement can be changed or revoked by the individual as long as he or she still has the mental capacity to make a Representation Agreement. Changes or revocations can be made in accordance with the terms of the agreement and are effective once the representative(s) as been given written notice.
If the individual no longer has the mental capacity to revoke or change a Representation Agreement and it appears that the representative is not acting according to the wishes of the individual or otherwise acts inappropriately, a concerned person may make an “objection” to the PGT. Under the Representation Agreement Act, the PGT has the duty to investigate the objection, apply to Court to change or cancel an agreement, recommend that someone else make the application to Court or take any other necessary action.
Power of Attorney
A “Power of Attorney” is a legal document through which one person, known as “the donor”, authorizes a second person, known as “the attorney”, to act on their behalf. An individual named in a Power of Attorney has a legal duty to follow the direction of the person giving the authority, or to act as a fiduciary if the person can no longer direct them. Unlike a Representation Agreement which can confer upon the representative the power to make an individual’s personal care and healthcare decisions, the power of attorney can only authorize the attorney to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the donor.
If the named attorney abuses the terms of a Power of Attorney, the abuse can be stopped by revoking the document, generally where the donor still has legal capacity. Often times this process requires the assistance of a lawyer and the courts to recover money, property or other assets under the terms of the Power of Attorney Act. If the donor is no longer capable, a concerned person can apply to Court to be appointed committee of the adult pursuant to the Patients Property Act (which appointment necessarily revokes the Power of Attorney) or make a report to the PGT that an attorney is abusing his or her power and the PGT is required to review that report and conduct an investigation, apply to Court to revoke the power or seek other relief or advise the concerned person to make his or her own application to Court to seek similar relief.
Contact a Vancouver Mental Incapacity/Committeeship Lawyer
If you are concerned about protecting the interests of a friend or family member who is unable to make important financial or medical decisions, or if a loved one is, or is suspected to be, the victim of financial elder abuse, it is important to contact a Vancouver lawyer as soon as possible. To discuss your case with one of our lawyers, call our office today at 604-688-9542 or send us an email.