Gransnet forums


to be concerned about friend's behaviour,

(19 Posts)
slinky Wed 11-May-11 11:14:10

I have a friend of long standing. She is a genuinely nice person, kind and funny as well as being a gran.

Her widowed mother is old infirm and gets very confused. She lives alone.

The mother has carers to get her up in the morning and to bed at night.

Lunch s supplied by my friend or her brother.

Both are signatories on her mothers cheque book etc.

No power of attorney has ben drawn up.

Now, both my friend and her brother have been dipping into the old lady's money (she is well off), in some order.

Holidays abroad, house improvements costing ££££££, new cars for the children and so forth.

When challenged my friend cheerfully remarked that 'mother is fine with it. She's told me to help myself'.

Given that mother doesn't know what day of the week it is I think this is awful.

Is what my friend doing illegal, it's certainly immoral?

Pandemonia Wed 11-May-11 15:59:08

I'd also be uncomfortable about this situation, slinky so you certainly aren't being unreasonable to be concerned.

My dp and his brother took over the running of their (now deceased) mother's bank accounts when it was clear that her descent into confusion (she had a form of progressive dementia) meant she was struggling to manage the everyday running of her accounts. They were absolutely scrupulous about only withdrawing money on her behalf and kept spreadsheets of all expenditure drawn on her behalf. She was both wealthy and generous and they were also the sole heirs named in her will but they never assumed this was any justification to presume. Let alone to help themselves, for themselves.

Also, when people get confused, they may not actually understand the significance of remarks like "help yourself" - let alone remember that they've said them. So it's a very poor show. I also think it may well be bordering on the illegal although given their mother's state of health, this might be very difficult to prove.

FlicketyB Wed 11-May-11 16:44:30

What is happening is known as Elder Abuse and includes financial abuse as well as physical and psychological abuse.

There is a charity called "Action against Elder Abuse". Their website address is: . There is a lot of very helpful information on it and they also have a helpline so you can talk to somebody there who can give you help and advice. Locally you could speak to Age Concern or Citizens Advice Bureau. Either will be able to help you. If you do not wish it to be known that you are the whistle blower I am sure they will have systems to hide the identity of the concerned person.

What your friend and her family are doing is illegal and immoral. To put it simply they are thieves and as the Elder Abuse website makes clear are liable to prosecution.

HildaW Wed 11-May-11 16:45:03

If there is no power of attorney....then it is illegal, the fact that the old lady ill ill and unaware does not in any way excuse their behavior. If it was me I would contact the suitable authority...then once that is done you have done your duty and can then let the matter run its course.

jangly Wed 11-May-11 17:16:28

So long as you're sure the old lady doesn't understand what they are doing. There is the possibility that she wants them to have the money now rather than them have to pay inheritance tax later.

slinky Wed 11-May-11 18:07:58

Thanks very much for your replies and advice.

This so tough for me. We have been friends so long, way before her children were born.

This is another side of her and in part I think it is driven by her husband. He's also an old friend but has always been something of a social climber and money and appearances are very important to him.

The financial squeeze has hit them quite badly and instead of cutting back, they have recently been living on her mother's money.

Not just essentials but luxury stuff.

When she takes some money, so does her brother. I have heard her refer to the old lady as 'the bank of grandma'.

Jangly, I would like to think that her mother had the capacity to think that way. Sadly she doesn't.

God this is a real problem for me.

Off course I know I should report her, but please put yourself in my shoes.

I'm having sleepless nights over this.

edsnana Wed 11-May-11 18:20:06

Gosh Slinky this is a real difficult dilemma but as an ex social worker I truly believe this constitutes elder abuse. FlicketyB's advice good and worth doing. It may be that if the mother needs to go into care there wouldn't be enough money to pay for that so they are on very dodgy grounds. You should trust your instincts here and do what you clearly know is right. Good luck

gingerbread Wed 11-May-11 18:31:37

You could make an anonymous referral to the Local Authority Social Services Department so that they can investigate it under their procedures for safeguarding vulnerable adults.

This is a moral dilemma for you but a very vulnerable person is at risk here and I think you know that you need to pass the responsibility on to someone who can make sure that the person's rights are protected.

In England, local Councils take the lead in investigating possible abuse, so even if you spoke to Citizens Advice or Age UK, they would be duty bound to report to the Local Authority.

You are doing the right thing if you report it - you are not apportioning blame but merely passing on your concerns so that others can determine the truth.

jangly Wed 11-May-11 18:54:24

So, can people be signatories on someone else's bank account when no power of attorney has been drawn up? How does that work?

slinky Wed 11-May-11 19:01:46

I think it just needs the account holder's consent.

This happened in this case some time ago.

I could decide to have one (or all) of my kids as signatories.

Pandemonia Wed 11-May-11 19:05:11

I think, although I am prepared to be proved wrong, that it is quite easy to change the mandate on a bank account to add additional signatories. Provided the holder of the account is in agreement then the bank will permit this. In the case of dp and his brother, his late mother had set up internet banking which she was subsequently quite unable to cope with. She shared the necessary details which allowed them to set up bill payments and administer them on her behalf. She couldn't remember her PIN number either so relied upon her sons to draw money in cash for her. This they did from their own bank accounts and she would reimburse them from hers. None of this was done in secret I hasten to add!

jangly Wed 11-May-11 19:14:36

slinky - Perhaps you could ask advice from these people.

HildaW Wed 11-May-11 19:50:57

No one can add themselves to an account without the account holders permission. The only way someone else can operate an account when a person is no longer able to funcion is with a Power of Attorney.

Pandemonia Wed 11-May-11 19:54:22

I suspect that permission has been granted though, Hilda.

FlicketyB Wed 11-May-11 19:58:56


I understand your dilemma. It is one that occurs again and again with elder abuse.

I worked as a client advisor for a charity for the elderly for some years and elder abuse was the most difficult problem we had to deal with because so often the person being abused and/or doing the reporting was close to the abuser and did not want to upset close friends and family. I can remember one lady being systematically stripped of all her savings by her grandson who charged £50.00 every time he gave her a lift in his car to shops, church or family. She did not wish to upset her daughter by telling her what her son was doing, she did not want to confront the perpetrator, even with support, in case there were reprisals and she would not involve police or social services. In the end we had to walk away because there was nothing we could do.

If this elderly lady was instead your friend's grandchild and she was abusing the child would you think twice about reporting it? I am sure you would not.

Speak to Action against Elder Abuse, your dilemma will be very familiar to them and if action is taken there should be ways to ensure your anonymity. But please have the courage to do something.

raggygranny Wed 11-May-11 20:00:29

I held a Third Party Mandate on my elderly aunt's bank account so that I could paid her rent and bills for her when she found such things confusing (but was still judged to be compos mentis). All it took was a letter from her to her bank authorising me.

slinky Wed 11-May-11 20:10:46

Gosh yes FlicketyB, I hear what you're saying.

I have tried to turn the whole thing on its head and see it that way.

They don't have to worry about paying for nursing home fees because there is a great deal of equity in the mother's house and it's in a desirable area.

I believe they became signatories when her dad was dying and her mum was not coping and failing to pay bills etc.

I'm going to have to have a long discussion with my husband about this. Frankly I think it's horribly grasping and unfeeling, on the other hand she has always been a good and faithful friend to me over the years.

babyjack Wed 11-May-11 20:26:04

Have a look on your local councils website, there should be a section on " Are you worried about a child or vulnerable adult."

It sounds like they are all colluding with each other, its easy to start off just getting the odd bit of shopping / petrol but this sounds like they are funding their lifestyle on their mother's money - I guess they think they will inherit so entitled to it either now or later.

Look up the Mental Capacity Act and older people, if this woman does not have capacity then this is financial abuse. If you tell her GP or Social care they will be obliged to pass it on and you can remain anonymous

All of us have a responsibility to protect children and vulnerable adults and as others have said passing on your concerns is all you have to do, it's up to other agencies to determine the legality of it..

Joan Thu 12-May-11 05:13:31

I'm not sure if this is good advice or bad, but it is what I would have to do.

I think the only way you can deal with it and keep your conscience clear is to talk to your friend about it directly. Tell her you are worried about her (your friend) because using her Mum's money like that looks bad and might not be legal, seeing as the old lady has dementia. Do it in such a way that you are protecting your friend, not condemning her.