A recent article written by Erica Johnson with the CBC – “’I trusted them fully’: B.C. man, 92, says of son and daughter who took his millions” – outlines the case of Pete Stoopnikoff, a 92-year-old man living in British Columbia. Mr. Stoopnikoff was a self-made millionaire but alleges that two of his adult children have stolen nearly all of his life savings over the past two years. Mr. Stoopnikoff executed a continuing power of attorney for property in 2014 appointing his eldest daughter and son as his attorneys to handle his financial affairs. He alleges that his children have exploited their position as his attorneys and have misappropriated his property. He is now left with little money to pay for his care and general living expenses.
While Mr. Stoopnikoff’s allegations have not been proven in Court, Ms. Johnson’s article highlights a growing problem in Canada, the financial abuse of seniors, often by a trusted family member. According to the Government of Canada, financial abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse against seniors and is often unreported. Financial abuse of seniors can include, among other things:
- misusing or stealing a senior’s assets, property or money;
- cashing an elderly person’s cheques without authorization;
- forging an elderly person’s signature; or
- unduly pressuring seniors to make or change a will, or to sign legal documents that they do not fully understand.
As noted in the article, Mr. Stoopnikoff’s story is part of a larger problem. A national report released in 2015 estimates that almost 250,000 older Canadians have been financially abused. Many estimate this number to be much higher and this number is expected to rise as the population ages and individuals live longer.