B.B. King's family allege he was subject to elder abuse and undue influence.

B.B. King’s family allege he was subject to elder abuse and undue influence.

Daughters allege elder abuse and undue influence; intend to challenge the will.

Blues legend B.B. King died barely two weeks ago at the age of 89 and a bitter battled has already erupted about his final days and his will.

His daughters claim that B.B. King was subjected to elder abuse prior to his death by his manager, Laverne Toney. While King was alive, Toney had been the power-of-attorney which gave her access to the music legend’s financial affairs. At the beginning of May, King was hospitalised after his daughter accused Toney of not seeking adequate medical care for King. His daughter also filed a complaint with the police in 2014, alleging that Toney had been stealing cash, Rolex watches and a ring worth $250,000 from King.

King’s death on May 14 led to two of King’s daughters claiming that the music legend had been poisoned. In their affadavits, the daughters say: “I believe my father was poisoned and that he was administered foreign substances to induce his premature death. I believe my father was murdered.”

A legal representative of a group of King’s heirs has said that they will challenge the will and the actions of Toney. Lawyer Larissa Drohobyczer says that Toney had misappropriated millions of dollars, had placed undue influence on King and was unqualified to serve as the executor of the estate.

How does this situation happen?

Elder abuse in vulnerable older people who may be suffering from illness is unfortunately common. In this instance, King’s manager had sole access to his financial affairs which leaves the estate open to theft and misappropriation. There have also been allegations of physical abuse and neglect of King.

You can make sure that there are joint powers-of-attorney so that it’s harder for one person to gain sole access to an older person’s estate. You can also ensure that an older person isn’t being isolated from family members so that nobody knows what’s going on. But the best way to ensure an older person isn’t been financially exploited is to keep an open dialogue with the older person. A study found that over 80% of older people who talked about their finances openly with family members and professionals felt more comfortable about protecting themselves from financial abuse.

Undue influence is perhaps not as easy to prove, but is another facet of elder abuse and a leading cause of will disputes. Case law in Australia says: “the law of undue influence…recognises the necessity for safeguards which protect the freedom, will and preferences of a person making a will from undue influence. This protection is particularly important where elderly testators are concerned….[who may not] possess the physical or mental independence of resilience to withstand the influences of family, friends and carers.” Nicholson v Knaggs [2009] VSC 64

The key concept is that of influence. The influence moves from being benign and becomes undue at the point where it can no longer be said that in making the will, the exercise represents the free, independent and voluntary will of the testator. The effect can be achieved in the context of a variety of circumstances and relationships. It can be the product of a chain of events, or a single event. It may be achieved by the conduct of one person or several, whether acting in concert or quite independently.

At Estate Battles we are experts in dealing with financial abuse and undue influence.

If you have concerns about a loved one, we offer a FREE 10-minute phone consultation. Contact us today.