By John Niekraszewicz
When Sue's mother passed away, her father was in his 70s, in good health and active in his community. Over time, Joe began to show signs of depression and became less active. But along came Mary, a nice younger lady who took to Joe and moved into his house. Having a companion in Joe's life made all the difference. He was a new man and both Joe and Mary’s family were happy for them.
At a family meeting, Joe told his son and daughter, "Mary and I have decided that if anything were to happen to us, then what is mine will go to my family and what she owns will go to her family. So, you don't have to worry about losing out on your inheritance."
Sue never planned her life around receiving an inheritance. Like most baby boomers, she spent money freely and used her house as a bank account. She gave everyone, including her father, the impression that she was a financial success. But now that she is getting closer to retirement age, she realized that an inheritance would be greatly appreciated. She could use the money. It would allow her to retire debt free or pay off her debts while in retirement.
After a few years, Joe told his family, "Since you kids are all quite successful and have no need for money, I have decided that when I'm gone, Mary can continue to live in my house. My kids and grandchildren will still get their inheritance; it’s just going to be delayed until Mary passes on. We are going to get our wills updated but still have to iron out a few details."
Eventually Joe passed away, and surprise, surprise; in his new will, not only did Mary get his house, and pension plans - she got everything. Sue was horrified. "The black widow took everything, even my mother's jewellery."
There was no way in the world that Joe would leave his entire estate to Mary and nothing to his children and grandchildren. What was he thinking, or not thinking? Was Joe suffering from dementia? Did Mary and her relatives do something illegal? Something wasn’t right and Sue was determined to find out what really happened.
Sue went over to her brother’s house. “Jimmy, you were always closer to Dad than I was. How did he look to you before he died?” “That’s a good question Sue. It’s been a long time since I saw Dad. Mary would always tell me, “Joe’s not feeling well”, or “Joe’s too tired to come to the phone.” I thought it odd that Dad never returned my calls or invited me over.”
“If our mother was still alive, we would never have met this Mary person,” said Sue. Mom was the financial genius in our family, and the only reason Dad and Mary were able to live a comfortable lifestyle was because of Mom. I’m surprised that Mom didn’t plan ahead and protect her inheritance for us, instead of giving it all to Dad.”
“Now that you mention it, I remember a time when Mom talked about taking out a life insurance policy with us as the beneficiaries,” said Jimmy. She said that the policy she was considering would only require premiums to be paid until the first of her or Dad died, but then when the survivor died, we would share the death benefit.”
“That makes sense,” said Sue. “I remember a nurse coming to the house with a weigh scale and taking their blood pressure. This must have been part of the life insurance application process.”
A few days later, a cheque arrived in the mail. It was Sue’s share of the life insurance policy proceeds. Her mother did protect her and Jimmy after all. But Sue was on a mission. If Joe’s memory was declining, maybe he had been taken advantage of financially. Now that she was flush with cash, it was time to retain legal counsel.
It seems that Mary and her family had convinced Joe that Sue and Jimmy didn’t like him anymore. He was told that they never called or came over to visit. The only ones who really cared about him were Mary and her family. They also convinced Joe that the government was out to get him and would take everything he had unless his will was updated. Yes, Sue was right. Joe was not in his right mind. He was a victim of emotional and financial abuse.
The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) realize that elder fraud is on the rise and are taking steps to make it easier for financial advisors, who suspect that their vulnerable clients may be victims, to take action. One solution is to have clients provide the name and contact information of a Trusted Contact Person who may be contacted if there are financial exploitation concerns.
In Sue’s story, name's and situations are illustrative and are not intended as financial planning advice. Before implementing any tax, investment, life insurance, or estate planning solutions it is best to seek professional advice. Have an experienced team of professionals work together to uncover the weak links in your plans and implement the correct solutions. Don't just leave your plans to chance because without structuring your family's wealth and estate plans properly, often, bad outcomes occur.
Consult a licensed financial planning advisor to help navigate your options, and then you can enjoy life & have fun.
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