The story of financial elder abuse plays out countless times each year. The story is a familiar one in which someone (typically close to the victim) uses their influence to gain some of the victim’s wealth. Of course, the highest profile cases involve the very wealthy. But, they are only the most visible.
In the U.S., we had the story of Huguette Clark, the heiress to the Clark Copper fortune. She lived the last decades of her life in New York hospitals. She died shortly before her 105th birthday. Items had a way of disappearing from her apartment, including a $10 million Degas drawing. Her accountant and attorney received lavish “gifts” and were beneficiaries under her disputed will.
Now, a similar story is playing out in the case of 92-year-old Lilliane Bettencourt, the heiress to L’Oréal and the second richest woman in the world, worth $40 billion. Currently, in a courtroom in France, Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, is in a battle with celebrity photographer François-Marie Banier. Mr. Banier became close to Mrs. Bettencourt over the years, particularly after the death of her husband. He is accused of taking more than €1 billion from Mrs. Bettencourt, who has Alzheimer’s. Here is a link to the New York Times story in the case.
As estate planning and elder law attorneys, we are in a unique position to be able to prevent this type of elder abuse.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555