WEDNESDAY, MAY 2: Seniors are being urged to get their estates in order as soon as possible so they do not fall victim to greedy relatives.

The warning comes after sisters Audra-Ann Bean and Lorraine Smith were convicted of fleecing their 87-year-old grandmother, Lenice Tucker, of nearly half a million dollars.

Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, said the case highlighted the need for seniors to be given more information on the way they can protect their possessions.

She told the Sun families also had a role to play by not taking offence when they are left out of the decision-making process.

Ms Fleming added: “We can not say if the kind of senior abuse suffered by Ms Tucker is more prevalent now. But over the years we have seen more seniors take advantage of legal clinics so they understand what options are open to them with regard to their money and estate.

“Seniors have to be educated about the value of their assets and how they can be best protected. This can be done without providing family members with joint ownership or the power of attorney.  We hope that as a result of Ms Tucker’s case, the general public will have a greater appreciation for the importance of informed estate and financial planning, in addition to the severe consequences that can arise when an older adult is abused, whether deliberately or in ignorance.”

Probate lawyers say they often tell older clients to get their estates in order as early as possible.

Michael Mello QC, from Appleby, told the Sun: “If you leave it too late to arrange your personal and estate affairs you may not have the necessary legal (i.e. mental) capacity to sign the required legal documentation to do so,  such as a Power of Attorney or Will.

"Some very elderly persons may not even have sufficient capacity to fully understand the consequences or the risks of making more simple arrangements such as making a friend or family member joint owner/signatory on their bank accounts to assist in managing their affairs.

“Clients need to have sufficient legal capacity to fully understand the documentation they are signing or the other arrangements they may deem necessary to make due to illness or incapacity.

"The best time to make these critical life decisions is when you are young and healthy enough to fully understand them and not when you are infirm and possibly physically and/or emotionally dependent upon (and maybe even under the influence of) the person you are trusting with your life savings.

“ Because people are living much longer these days , they often become physically or mentally  incapable due to age or illness to look after their own affairs and more frequently go into rest homes where caring family members' visits are not always frequent, rather than (as in the past) being cared for at home by their immediate family members who would ordinarily look out for their physical and financial well being.”

Nathan Samuels, an associate attorney in property, trusts and estates at MJM Ltd, works with Age Concern to provide information and advice to seniors.

He said: “I think seniors need to be made more aware of their rights.

“What I often see is a lot of misconceptions and family difficulties that are caused as a result of trying to get a senior’s estate in order too late in the day. In general, the earlier the planning takes place, the better the outcome.”

Sisters Bean, 44, and Smith, 46, were both convicted of financially exploiting Ms Tucker last Thursday. The pair were remanded in custody and face a jail term when they are sentenced at a later date.

Ms Fleming described the conviction as a ‘bittersweet victory’, and said that Age Concern was pleased there had been justice for Ms Tucker.

But she added: “We hope that in some meaningful way the family may be able to restore relationships that may seem hopelessly severed.

“But perhaps, what is of even greater concern for us at this time is the continued protection of Ms Tucker for her remaining years. Hopefully, the money that she has lost will be fully recovered.

“However, before that is done, careful consideration must be given by the authorities as to who will monitor and advise Ms Tucker about where and how her money should be spent and safeguarded.

“Our chief concern is whether Ms Tucker may still be at risk from other financial predators.”