Legal Services for the Elderly has dealt with several cases of elder abuse in Maine. The following are a few examples of actual financial exploitation cases:
- A 75-year-old widow was living in her own home, valued at $80,000, in Penobscot County. She and her deceased husband had paid off the mortgage long ago. The woman had some health problems and a family member from southern Maine offered to help. After doing housework and routine chores for only two days, the family member arranged for a notary to come to the house and a deed was executed transferring the woman’s house to the family member. The woman was told the transfer would protect her home if she needed long-term care. Three months later, she received an eviction notice. She called the Legal Services for the Elderly Helpline after being told to pack up and move to senior housing. An LSE attorney brought a civil action in Superior Court to recover the home and soon after the family member agreed to convey the home back to the woman.
- An 82-year-old World War II veteran living in Cumberland County sought help from LSE after his daughter refused to allow him access to his own money. After suffering two strokes, he was confined to a wheelchair and homebound. He had bought a mobile home and his daughter had moved in with him after his wife passed away. He also had named his daughter Power of Attorney and added her to the title of the home and his bank accounts. The daughter had taken steps to isolate her father from other family and friends and repeatedly told him no one loved him anymore. He became increasingly upset when she refused to give him money to buy pizza or gifts for his grandchildren. When he sought help from LSE he believed he had $20,000 in savings, but the LSE attorney discovered that only $15 remained in his accounts. Bank records revealed that his daughter had taken his money for her personal use, opened and charged thousands on credit cards in his name, and purchased a new car using her Power of Attorney authority to add him as a co-signer. This man knew that his money was long gone, but he wanted his daughter and her boyfriend evicted from his home and off the deed as a joint tenant. LSE was able to evict the daughter from the home, recover the home and clear his credit history.
- A 78-year-old widow living in Androscoggin County was convinced by her daughter — and agent under Power of Attorney — and her boyfriend that it was time to sell her home and move in with the daughter and her husband. They promised that they would look after her and manage her finances and medical issues. Instead, they moved her into a camper in their backyard in the heat of summer, where the woman’s health declined and she eventually ended up needing nursing home care. Over the course of two years, they spent her entire nest egg, leaving her without a home and disqualified for MaineCare. LSE sued the couple in superior court and ultimately came to a monetary settlement. LSE also negotiated with the state to get the woman MaineCare coverage for her care in a long-term care facility.
- An elderly couple in Waldo County was befriended by a handyman and neighbor who offered to help with simple home repairs. This handyman insinuated his way into the couple’s lives and convinced the couple to sell their home in return for a nominal amount plus a life estate in the home. The town valued the home at around $30,000. The couple believed the life estate meant they could live there for the rest of their lives, and that in exchange for getting the house after they were gone, the neighbor would assist in taking care of the home. The handyman had included a provision in the deed that he could evict the couple. The handyman moved a large mobile home onto the elders’ lot and as soon as he was settled in, he told them he was going to evict them from their home. The couple sought help from LSE. An LSE Staff Attorney investigated the case and discovered the handyman had an extensive criminal history including other situations involving elders. LSE filed a civil action in superior court and obtained a temporary restraining order protecting the property and keeping the handyman out of the elders’ home. Eventually the handyman, through his attorney, agreed to deed the house back to the couple and remove his trailer. A “no trespass” order remains in place, keeping the handyman away from these elders.