Alzheimer’s and Finances: The Astor Verdict

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Alzheimer’s and Finances: The Astor Verdict

By Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R.N., B.S.N., Attorney

For those who followed any part of the high profile case of fraud and financial abuse charges against the son of New York matriarch, Brooke Astor, the guilty verdict against her son may have been no surprise. For those unfamiliar with the facts, Ms. Astor, who died at age 105, had been a very wealthy woman known for large charitable contributions to many organizations. In her later years, her finances were managed by her son, Charles Marshall, and estate planning attorney, Francis Morrisey. Charles was age 85 at the time of his trial.

Charles, with the help of Mr. Morrisey, had given himself an unauthorized raise of $1million near the end of his mother’s life, for managing her affairs. He was convicted of grand larceny. Attorney Morrissey was convicted of forgery. One of the central issues in the case was whether the elderly Brooke Astor had the capacity to make financial decisions in light of the fact that she had Alzheimer’s Disease. The failed defense relied on the fact that she had lucid moments and that she loved her son.

The greed of her son, who chose to manipulate not only an unauthorized million dollar raise for himself, but other financial decisions about her money which would work to his benefit, shocked many. Ultimately, the jury did not buy the arguments that Ms. Astor was capable of understanding complex changes to her estate plan at the time they were put into place.

Perhaps the lesson here is that those who seek to prey on elders who have dementia by stealing and manipulating their finances can be caught and successfully prosecuted. Mr. Marshall faces 1 to 25 years behind bars. The case illustrates a sad fact: most elder financial abuse is committed by family members.

For the many lower profile elders whose money is at risk because of greed and opportunity of family, the best prevention is to ensure that access to one’s account only is by the person most trusted that one can find. If a son, daughter, or other heir is in any way questionable, it is far better to choose a professional fiduciary to manage one’s finances in the event of incapacity, such as accompanies Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.

To learn more about the responsibilities of managing money for an aging person, see our mini-book, “How to Handle Money for Aging Loved Ones”, from The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents, (also in downloadable and audio versions), available at AgingParents.com or on Amazon.com.

Ó 2009, AgingParents.com

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:37 )

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