Museum Cut From Will Sues Deceased’s Carer
In an unprecedented case, the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) is taking a deceased woman’s carer to court after the museum was replaced by the defendant in the woman’s Will.
Long-time art lover Elenor G Potter had left a substantial gift of around $2 million to the Portland Museum of Art. However, just months before she passed away in 2015, the museum were abruptly replaced as the main beneficiaries with Mrs Potter’s carer, Anne Marie Germain.
Claiming that Germain placed undue pressure on Potter to change the Will, the PMA have launched legal action citing ‘elder abuse’ and an abuse of power. As Potter was a member of the PMA’s leadership committee, the museum feel confident that they can prove Potter’s express wishes are being violated with Germain abusing her power by trying to exploit a vulnerable person.
Conversely, Germain maintains she is acting and following the express wishes of Mrs Potter. Her legal team claim the museum’s accusations are largely based on “inadmissible or out of context evidence such as hearsay, improper lay opinions disguised as facts, unauthenticated medical records and undesignated expert opinions.”
Unfortunately, an increase in alleged elder abuse or people abusing their positions as attorneys increased considerably last year. The government carried out almost 50% more investigations concerning abuse complaints regarding lasting powers of attorney (LPA) in 2018.
In total, the Office of the Public Guardian received 5,245 claims that attorneys were abusing their donor’s finances last year.
This is more claims of abuse than the OPG has ever had to deal with. As will contestation claims and contentious probate cases continue to rise with warring families disputing the estate of a loved one, the influx of additional abuse cases involving living incapacitated cases could also continue rising.
Although every case is reviewed and considered, 3,359 allegations of attorneys abusing their position were not considered viable cases that required further investigation.
However, the 1,886 cases that were investigated represented a 50% increase in investigations compared with those carried out in 2017.
Daniel E. O’Leary, the former director of the Portland Museum of Art, commented: “Museums frequently find themselves trying to decide what the best thing to do is when wills and generosity to a museum are called into question by people who are surprised their relative was so generous.
“Almost everybody who dies with a lot of art and money, people come banging around. If there was some pledge to the museum or language in the will, that’s often an issue.”
Kelly Greig, of Irwin Mitchell, commented: “The cost of a complaint is a massive drain on a mentally incapacitated person’s finances. Those putting a power of attorney in place need to think carefully about who they appoint – for instance, is it the best idea to put all of your children as attorneys when they’re constantly at war with one another?”
How concerning is the issue of elderly exploitation? Have you found that more people are attempting to abuse the vulnerable? Are more people contesting their loved ones Wills?