Simon Shonn (49), of Suthers Street, Radcliffe, Bury, was given control of his mother's savings when 75-year-old Irene Shonn's Alzheimer's meant she needed to live in a care home. He was meant to pay the home £665 a week for living costs, but instead blew the lot.
His case came to court, so what was his punishment? And how can we avoid Irene's fate?%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
According to The Bolton News, Simon Shonn took control of his mother's affairs in 2010, when she moved into Heathlands Residential Care Home in Prestwich, Manchester. He had been living on carer's allowance, as the sole carer for his mother, but lost this when she went into the home.
But instead of adjusting to live on a far smaller income, Simon decided to live on his mother's savings. He blew around £50,000 on luxuries, from home improvements to TVs and computers, new clothes and going out. The prosecution told the court that a 'significant amount' had been spent at HMV. In the interim the outstanding bill for his mother's care hit £29,000.
He had spent all the money, so could not cover the costs, leaving his mother facing the threat of eviction from the home. In the end the local authority stepped in and picked up the bill.
He admitted fraud at Bolton Crown Court. He was sentenced to 300 hours community service, a curfew for six months, and a 21 month jail sentence suspended for two years.
The Daily Mail reported that Judge Peter Davies explained why he was sparing him from jail, saying: "This was a grave offence, however you are the only family member who cares for your mother and that is to your credit. You continue to look after your mother as she endures this dreadful condition... I have to think what is the public benefit, you are unlikely to commit further offences, you are not a danger. Your mother may not know what was going on and looks forward to your visits and I would not wish to deprive her of that."
It raises the importance of carefully weighing up your options before signing a 'lasting power of attorney' agreement. You can draw these up while you are of sound mind, to indicate who you would like to control your affairs if you lose the ability to deal with them yourself. They can relate purely to your finances, or health, or both.
These replaced enduring power of attorney agreements in 2007 (although in Scotland the system involves a continuing power of attorney and in Northern Ireland it's still an enduring power of attorney).
These are far cheaper and simpler to arrange than trying to sort things out after someone has lost mental capacity - although they are by no means cheap.
According to Winston Solicitors 15% of people abused their rights under the EPA system, using the donor's money to fund their own lifestyle. So it's essential that you use someone you trust completely.
If you are unsure, you can appoint two people, and can insist that they both agree any decisions made about your finances. If you lose faith in someone after appointing them, you can revoke the power and set up another one. Again this will cost you some cash, but certainly less than if the wrong person is in charge of your money.
Seven retirement nightmares
Son spends mum's savings instead of paying for care
Figures from charity Age UK show that 29% of those over 60 feel uncertain or negative about their current financial situation - with millions facing poverty and hardship. Even though saving for retirement is not much fun, the message is therefore that having to rely on dwindling state benefits in retirement is even less so. To avoid ending up in this situation, adviser Hargreaves Lansdown recommends saving a proportion of your salary equal to half your age at the time of starting a pension. In other words, if you are 30 when you start a pension, you should put in 15% throughout your working life. If you start at 24, saving 12% of your salary a year should produce a similar return.
Many older couples rely on the pension income of one person - often the man. Should that person die first, the other person can therefore be left in a difficult position financially.
One way to prevent financial hardship for the surviving person is to take out a joint life annuity that will continue to pay out up to 67% of the original payments to the surviving partner should one of them die.
The disadvantage of this approach, however, is that the rate you receive will be lower. Again, the Pensions Advisory Service on 0845 601 2923 is a useful first port of call if you are unsure what to do.
Around 427,000 households in the over-70 age groups are either three months behind with a debt repayment or subject to some form of debt action such as insolvency, according to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS).
Its figures also show that those aged 60 or older who came to the CCCS for help last year owed an average of £22,330. Whether you are retired or not, the best way to tackle debt problems is head on.
Free counselling services from the likes of CCCS and Citizens Advice can help with budgeting and dealing with creditors.
Importantly, they can also conduct a welfare benefits check to make sure you are receiving the pension credit, housing and council tax benefits, attendance and disability living allowances you are entitled to.
The average UK pensioner household faces a £111,400 tax bill in retirement as increasing longevity means pensioners are living on average up to 19 years past the age of 65, according to figures from MetLife. And every year in retirement adds an extra £5,864 in direct and indirect taxes based on current tax rates to the costs for the average pensioner household. You can be forced to go bankrupt if you fail to pay your taxes, so it is vital to factor these costs into your retirement planning.It is also important to check that you are receiving all the benefits and tax breaks you are entitled to if you want to make the most of your retirement cash.
The cost of a room in a care home in many parts of the country is now over £30,000 a year, according to figures from Prestige Nursing and Care. So even if the prime minister announces a cap on care costs - last year the economist Andrew Dilnot called for a new system of funding which would mean that no one would pay more than £35,000 for lifetime care - families will still face huge accommodation costs. Ways to cut this cost include opting for home care rather than a care home. Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing and Care, said: "For older people who may need care in the shorter term, home care is an option which allows people to maintain their independence for longer while living in their own home and should be included in the cap." However, the only other answer is to save more while you can.
Older Britons are often targeted by unscrupulous criminals - especially if they have a bit of money put away. For example, many over 50s were victims of the so-called courier scam that tricked into keying their pin numbers into their phones and handing their cards to "couriers" who visited their homes. It parted consumers from £1.5 million in under two years. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barnard, head of the bank sponsored dedicated cheque and plastic crime unit (DCPCU), said: "Many of us feel confident that we can spot fraudsters, but this type of crime can be sophisticated and could happen to anyone." The same is true of boiler room scams that target wealthier Britons with money to invest, offering "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities to snap up shares at bargain prices. Tactics to watch out for include cold calling, putting you under pressure to pay up or lose the opportunity for good, and claiming to have insider information that they are prepared to share with you.