Financial elder abuse suspected in case involving British Columbia millionaire
I recently found a story from B.C. that illustrates the potential for financial elder abuse by close family members. The story is about Mr. Pete Stoopnikoff, a 92 year-old, self-made millionaire from B.C. He started by borrowing money to buy a gas station. Mr. Stoopnikoff then invented an efficient wood burning heater in the 1950s, and invested the profits in real estate.
Mr. Stoopnikoff’s daughter, Anne Filippone became an accountant. She eventually started doing her father’s taxes and bookkeeping. It is alleged that some time around June of 2014, she suggested that Mr. Stoopnikoff give her and her brother Sam Stoopnikoff an enduring power of attorney to handle his financial affairs. Mr. Stoopnikoff went to a lawyer’s office where he signed various documents. Some of these included deeds of gift and transfers of his ownership of several properties and bank accounts containing millions to Anne and Sam. Mr. Stoopnikoff also allegedly underwent a checkup with his doctor confirming he was of sound mind and body. He also signed a certificate confirming the legal consequences had been explained to him.
It was not until June of 2016 that Mr. Stoopnikoff began to suspect he may be a victim. It is alleged that around that time he noticed $57,000 had been withdrawn from a joint account. This money was taken from an account meant for living expenses and not covered under the previously signed deeds of gift. Additionally, withdrawals totaling more than $872,000 were allegedly made by Anne. Furthermore, Mr. Stoopnikoff was removed from accounts covered by the deeds of gift thereby denying him access to approximately $3 million.
None of the above allegations have been proven in Court. Mr. Stoopnikoff has hired a lawyer to rescind the enduring power of attorney and revoke the deeds of gift granted by Mr. Stoopnikoff.
The threat of financial elder abuse is increasing
If a child or a relative is attempting to get you to sign a power of attorney or any other documentation pertaining to your assets, it is important to seek legal advice. Your lawyer should explain the consequences of granting a power of attorney for property in detail. Furthermore, if the person granting the power of attorney for property is elderly, it may be appropriate to speak with a financial adviser to come up with a plan to meet the grantor’s future cost of living expenses. Blind trust in a relative should never replace sound financial planning and legal advice.
Furthermore, the grantor of a power of attorney must understand the far-reaching effects of powers of attorney. Although the grantor may understand the legal consequences of granting a power of attorney, it is important to understand the potential dangers one may face in the future. Power of attorney abuse is a rapidly expanding area of estate litigation. As the population ages and individuals live longer, financial elder abuse will likely continue being a significant problem.
It will be interesting to see what happens with this story. None of the allegations have been proven in Court. If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of financial elder abuse, you should call a lawyer immediately.
More on this story here.