Caregiver accused of influencing loses court battle

A recent story I found online from Auckland, New Zealand is an example of the kind of scenario that is becoming more common as our population ages. The story involves a fight between a caregiver, an elderly man she cared for, and his son.

According to the story, Alfred Willis hired Pamela Thomson in 1997 as a caregiver. She helped him with housekeeping, bed-making, and showering. She worked for Mr. Willis a few months before moving on to another job. According to Ms. Thomson, the relationship she had with Mr. Willis went beyond that of a caregiver and client as they became close friends over time.

Mr. Willis became very ill with cancer some time in 2000. His son, Leslie Willis, found a document in his father’s house authorizing Ms. Thomson to sign documents on his father’s behalf. Leslie looked into the matter further and found a Will among his father’s documents that appeared to leave his entire estate to Ms. Thomson. When Leslie asked Mr. Willis about this document, he became very upset because he did not intend to leave everything to Ms. Thomson.

Mr. Willis consulted his lawyers and executed a new will leaving everything to his son.

Bedroom baby monitor showed signs of influence by caregiver

Leslie installed a baby monitor in his father’s bedroom. Over time, he became even more concerned about Ms. Thomson’s relationship with Mr. Willis. In the weeks leading up to his death, Mr. Willis applied for $50,000 worth of Bonus Bonds. These were placed in his and Ms. Thomson’s names jointly without Leslie’s knowledge.

Ms. Thomson claimed that Mr. Willis invited her over to sign papers related to the bonds. Leslie told the Court that at the time this transaction took place Mr. Willis was disoriented and confused in addition to being on morphine.

On the day Mr. Willis died, Leslie instructed his father’s lawyers to call the bank and notify them that there may have been fraud involved in the transfer of the bonds. The bank placed a stop on the bonds. The matter dragged on for 16 years! Justice Simon Moore of the High Court in Auckland ruled in July of 2017 that Ms. Thomson had no legal or beneficial interest in the bonds. He declared the sole legal owners of the bonds to be the executors of the estate of Mr. Willis.

Unfortunately, financial elder abuse is becoming more common as our population ages. If you suspect an elderly relative is the victim of undue influence or financial abuse by a caregiver, it is important to take the necessary steps to deal with the situation promptly. The above story could have had a very different end if Leslie was absent from his father’s life. It appears that Leslie became suspicious of Ms. Thomson and was lucky to have found his father’s will leaving everything to Ms. Thomson. His father changed his will accordingly.

Although it took a lengthy Court battle, Leslie made sure his father’s last wishes were fulfilled.