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I beg of the moderators to please leave this up on the main board until I get the answer as I am attending a court case at 2 pm today where I need the answer! I've a feeling that some of the HPC members will be able to help.

Q: What do you do when your elderly mother's house has risen in value so much it could wipe out all of your debts if she died and left it entirely to you?

A: You convince her to leave it to you by any means possible, including frightening her to the point of tears according to my partner's brother!

It's sad, isn't it? My partner's brother was made bankrupt last year but just will not stop spending. He has worked out that his mother is worth more dead than she is alive due to the property boom.

For those of you who don't want to read a long post but can offer some help I will ask the question I need answering here: What is the legal term (the one that a Judge would take very seriously upon hearing it) for when a person tells an elderly widowed woman that one of her children will be in serious danger if she does not hand over £20K of her life savings? Extortion, blackmail? I need to know desperately.

Here's the background:

An elderly mother and 2 sons. Both sons are locked in a dispute over 2 properties. The youngest son says that each son owns one property. The eldest son alleges that he owns both properties. It ends up in court.

The mother is torn between the two sons and does not know what to do.

A few months later the elder brother moves into the mother's house and the youngest son is denied access to his mother on the threat of violence against him.

Suddenly a witness statement arrives in support of the eldest brother's claim from the mother as well as affadavits purporting that the younger brother's other properties (residential and commercial) were infact paid for by the mother and intended to be held on trust for both brothers by the youngest son.

From that date forward, the mother pays all of the the litigation fees for the older brother to make claims against the youngest son (so far, £20K +) and the youngest son spends an equal amount defending his position.

When eventually the youngest son mangaes to get his mother to answer the telephone at her home (rather than his brother) things have deteriorated so far between the family that the youngest son records the entire conversation. When he asks why his mother is not only providing false witness testimony but funding the case against him she tells him it is for his own protection. When probed much further throughout the conversation the mother becomes upset and explains to the youngest son that he is in extreme danger but does not know it. If he gets his own property into his own name he will end up with nothing. It will all be taken from him by his partner and their family. The son may not know it but his partner and their family have devised an evil plan to make him go mentally insane and put him into a mental institution. Once he is in there his partner and their family are going to claim all of his assetts for themselves and leave him with nothing. All of the hard work he has done to build himself a life will mean nothing as he is in extreme danger but cannot see it. She explains that she must do what she is doing as it is the only way she can protect him. She begs him to come home to her where she can protect him from this danger and comfort him in safety.

2 more telephone calls are recorded over the next week in a similar vain. His mother admits to him that the facts of the past are different to those she alleges in her witness statements and affadavits to the court but that she MUST protect him and that it is for his own good. After this when the son tries to call his mother the number is dead. When he rings the operator he is told the number has been changed after reports of "nuisance calls". He is never given her new telephone number. She rings her sons partner a week later screaming that she will take revenge for what her family is being out through. She will endevour to ensure the partner and their entire family are sent to jail for what they are planning to do to her youngest son as well as a lot of other things she talks about that contradict her witness statement.

The youngest son becomes very concerned and contacts as many people as possible about what his mother is being subjected to but nobody seems to care. The police can't do anything and social services won't act.

Within a few months he discovers that his mother's bank account has been drained relentlessly and that the family accounts that held thousands are now emptied but a new account has been set up at the bank with some of the remaining funds in the names of his mother and brother only.

It's just a matter of time before she's dead.

The youngest son wants somebody to be able to step in and rescue his mother from the mental torture she is being put through. He is even willing to sign a document giving up any rights to any type of inheritance but he is aware that his mother is getting on in years and already fragile. All he wants is for someone to step in and save the lady. He wants to be given the opportunity to see his mother one last time to at least attempt to reassure her of the facts and say his last goodbyes (he fears she will be dead before this case is finally over).

The solicitors representing the elder brother are acting for the mother also yet admit that she is funding both of the cases. They have been told about the telephone calls and the content but have refused to acknowledge any responsibilty. They were requested to at least get in an independant translator (the woman is Italian) who could translate the case to her (rather than her eldest son) but have refused that too.

Later today we need to bring this all to the Judges attention. We fear if we do not that the Judge could make an order for costs against the elder brother which would unintentionally have a consequence for the mother instead.

Either way, at this rate my partner is very worried that she will end up either penniless or dead.

I can't believe that house prices increasing as much as they have has lead to this sorry state of affairs, but my partner's brother is beyond caring. He just sees the money. What does he have to lose? It's he who has everything to gain, and his mother and brother who are paying the court costs for him whatever the outcome!

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For those of you who don't want to read a long post but can offer some help I will ask the question I need answering here: What is the legal term (the one that a Judge would take very seriously upon hearing it) for when a person tells an elderly widowed woman that one of her children will be in serious danger if she does not hand over £20K of her life savings? Extortion, blackmail? I need to know desperately.

I would say it sounds like extortion to me but I aint no lawyer.

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Maybe it's fraud? -- the argument being the elder brother has lied to the mother to get her to execute certain financial transactions. Dunno though.

Also you mentioned threats of violence. I believe this is itself a criminal offense.

I am a bit confused about your relation to all this -- is your partner the sister of the two brothers?

Either way family property wrangles are one of the ugly faces of the property boom. I have seen it in my family and others too. It is horrible.


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Is there some way to bring in a advocate? Like in this news story?



Advocates look out for elders' interests



Posted: 2/21/2006

Washoe Health


SAFE advocate Marian Holton talks with a senior who has just been released from guardianship


SAFE advocate Marian Holton talks with a senior who has just been released from guardianship

For Sparks resident Marian Holten, her path to being an advocate for the elderly could be best described as divine inspiration.

"One day, I saw ... a church bulletin, and it said, 'Would you help someone who had no one else to help them?'" said the 69-year-old, who was living in North Dakota at the time.

Holten quickly found herself doing just that by becoming the guardian for a senior. Holten liked working with the elderly so much that when she moved with her husband to Reno several years ago, she immediately signed up when she found out about a new program looking for volunteers to advocate for seniors under guardianship. In 2000, Holten became part of the first graduating class of volunteers for the Special Advocates for Elders program or SAFE.

Given Holten's past experience, joining the group was a no-brainer.

"I thought, 'You know, that would be a lot easier than being a guardian,'" Holten said. "When you just have to be somebody's friend, then that's an easier job to do.

"It's very rewarding. I just hope that whenever the time comes that I get in that position, then there would be someone like me who would help me, too."

Advocating for the elderly

In 1998, local judge Scott Jordan met with other concerned locals, including elder law attorneys and psychologists and experts from organizations such as the Sanford Center for Aging and Senior Law Practice Group, to brainstorm an elder counterpart of the successful Court Appointed Special Advocates program for children.

From this initial meeting, a pilot project was started in 1999, and the first group of SAFE advocates graduated in 2000. The group will be graduating its eighth group this year.

SAFE volunteers receive a mandate from the court to advocate for vulnerable elderly and provide an extra set of objective eyes to help judges "find out the whole story," said SAFE executive director Deborah Van Veldhuizen. Elderly considered vulnerable are those who are deemed no longer able to handle their affairs or who can no longer live independently and are facing the possibility of guardianship.

"Elderly ... who go under guardianship don't have the power to decide anything," said Van Veldhuizen, adding that seniors they advocate for can include anyone from millionaires to the destitute. "It's not up to them to decide where they live or how their money is spent."

In these cases, there may be several parties vying for control of the elderly person or that person's assets, ranging from family members to lawyers. By having an unpaid SAFE advocate involved, who has no possibility of material or financial gain from the situation, the court can gather unbiased information so it can make better judgements in such cases, Van Veldhuizen said.

Sibling fights over control, for example, usually don't benefit the elder under dispute. Sometimes, well-meaning family members or guardians are trying to do a good job but may not be aware of the elder's needs. At other times, elders may have no family or have lost touch with them and are now alone.

"People not capable of making good judgments for themselves are prone to any kind of abuse, exploitation or neglect," Van Veldhuizen said.

"Sometimes, you may also have a person who just needs assistance in helping pay bills or shopping, and if they don't get that assistance they can self-neglect."

In some cases, some seniors under guardianship may not need a guardian. For example, an elderly person may feel ill, call 911 and enter the hospital when they're most disoriented or confused. People interviewed during this low point may be assessed as needing a guardian. After some time, though, these people may demonstrate better ability to manage their affairs. In such cases, it helps to have an advocate who can gather information for the courts so they can more accurately determine the elderly person's needs.

Holten can relate to such experiences. The second senior for whom he advocated as a SAFE volunteer -- a man in his 90s --was eventually cleared to go off guardianship.

"When he came into the program, he was really at a low point in his life and he had a lot of confusion," said Holten, who served as an advocate for the man for three years. "But then he got plenty of rest and nourishment and he got healthier. I kept watching him every day and saw how he would go shopping and he could make change. We bought him a (mobile) phone and he learned how to use it.

"So we pushed for another assessment and got him off guardianship. That was the reward for me right there."

Volunteers needed

With the elderly population growing nationwide and Northern Nevada distinguishing itself as a popular destination for retirees, the SAFE program hopes to see more people such as Holten.

"We definitely need more volunteers," Van Veldhuizen said. "We're handling almost a hundred cases each year."

This year, Van Veldhuizen hopes to get about 30 new volunteers into their program in the next training session. Ideally, the program should have two or three graduating classes per year, Van Veldhuizen said, but funding is limited so they can only train one group for now. The nonprofit is funded by the state's Division of Aging Services along with grants from the E.L. Cord Foundation and the Helen Close Charitable Foundation. It also gets some private donations.

Volunteers of the SAFE program are as diverse as the communities they live in. Members range from 23 to 82. Recently, the program's oldest volunteer -- an 84-year-old -- decided to "retire" from the program after three years of service.

"They come from all walks of life," Van Veldhuizen said. "They're homemakers, professionals, psychologists, attorneys, insurance people. They're people who just care, and they're lifelong learners who really have a passion about caring for the elderly."

Initial training takes 40 hours and involves a comprehensive education of elder issues by medical, legal and other experts. Volunteers who finish training typically spend four to eight hours a month as advocates

Volunteers usually visit the senior assigned to them once every two weeks, although the initial introduction period often takes longer. Once a relationship is established between volunteer and senior and things are going smoothly, it's normal for some volunteers to request an additional senior to advocate for, sometimes even more than that, Van Veldhuizen said.

Although volunteer work can involve issues such as clarifying or resolving guardianship, socialization and simple companionship can be part of the service, too.

"Just because a person doesn't remember what time of week it is doesn't mean they don't need to talk to a person and feel they have somebody there who cares," Van Veldhuizen said. "Providing bedrooms and meals isn't always enough in some cases. They want the same quality of life the rest of us want."

For many members, who can advocate for a senior until that person dies, volunteering can establish rewarding relationships and experiences.

Holten, who learned about gardening from the elderly man he advocated for, treasures those experiences to this day. The senior she advocated for has since moved to Oregon, but she hears from mutual friends that he's doing well and has even taken bus trips by himself to Sacramento. Sometimes, she'll see the rhododendron in her garden and immediately think about him.

"He's an excellent gardener," Holten said. "When he lived in Oregon before he moved here, he used to grow rhododendrons and he gave me plenty of fantastic advice. Now that he's back in Oregon, I wonder if he's into his rhododendrons again."

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I'm not legally qualified to advise but here goes.

Sorry if some of this seems criticism of you, its not meant to be, but your story is not clear, probably because of the time it was written and the proximity of a court hearing. I want to try to remove emotion from my response, becasue if you're looking at a court case, emotion has no part there nor in the law in general.

Firstly, judges are juges of law and of facts relating to the law. Its unclear what the relationship is between the story of the 2 brothers and mother, and the court case. If there is a different point of law between the story and the case, the story is irrelevant and no judge will want to listen to it. So you have to compartmentalise the legal questions, and deal with them at different times.

I suspect that the case is about ownership of the properties. If so the court will decide on the basis of the evidence before them, aand if necessary who is the more credible witness. It's unfortunate but if someone wants to try to get the court to consider sudden new evidence, its likely to detract from their credibility and to possibly tip the judgement against them. Courts don't like sudden shocks, and case winning dramatic revelations only happen on American TV courtroom dramas.

So, compartmentalise. It looks like one brother is trying to use undue influence on the mother. The other brother should therefore attempt to raise an action to have a legal guiardian appointed to the mother to prevent the mother being forced to do something. This sis a separate action and should not be attempted today. The best would be to try to get an adjournment of the case to purse guardianship proceedings which will no doubt be hard fought. But this is an outside chance, courts don't like surprises and I'm sorry to say it may be too late. The brother attempting the legal action needs professional advice very quickly.

Bear in mind as well that there's always two sides to a story, and a court will pick one of them. Opposed guardianship disputes will be very messy, and expensive, and the courts would prefer a negotiated solution rather than them imposing one.

This probably is not the response you're looking for. Try to avoid a resolution of the case today, which is probably going to incur more expense, and get serious professional advice.

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A terrible story but this is all about human greed. Please don't try to 'blame' this thing on house prices. I wish I had the answer although I would hope that the recorded conversations would be good evidence.

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