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Disappearing Money - An Elder Abuse Red Flag

When investigating cases of financial elder abuse and taking them to court, we know that money is the abuser's primary motivator. With that in mind, all that's left is to establish just how the abuser was able to misappropriate an elder's funds. And needless to say, when money goes missing, it's a strong clue that wrongdoing is afoot. 

A developing story out of New Hampshire shows several potential indicators of financial elder abuse, from undue influence through emotional manipulation to stacks of cash disappearing shortly after an elder's death. As we have previously reported, the dispute underway surrounds the estate of Geraldine Webber, a 94-year-old Portsmouth woman suffering dementia who died in 2012. Webber changed her will seven months before her passing with the help of local police officer Aaron Goodwin, who "befriended" the senior citizen.

Along with offering friendship, Goodwin managed to shop around for a attorney who would change her will. Though several refused, citing Webber's cognitive impairment confirmed by her diagnosis for dementia in 2010, the enterprising officer convinced lawyer Gary Holmes to administer the change.

Now Goodwin, unrelated to Webber and acquainted with her for only months, was the new chief beneficiary of her $2.7 million estate, including $1 million in stocks and bonds. One telling detail that coincides with red flags for potential elder abuse is found in statements by Holmes, the lawyer who agreed to redraft Webber's will in favor of Goodwin. Holmes revealed under deposition that upon the senior citizen's passing, Goodwin requested he go to her house and remove around $7,000 worth of cash from secret hiding places:

Holmes said that on the day she died, Goodwin called him and told him she hid cash in her Shaw Road house 'and that I should look for it.'

Even though he gained the status of primary beneficiary of Webber's multimillion estate, Goodwin's legal right to the inheritance is now contested in litigation. And as depositions show, taking secret stashes of cash out of a deceased elder's house looks awfully suspicious.  

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