Elder Abuse: What would you do?

Kelly Kretchmer, with Fidelity National Title in Redding, California, dealt with a situation that quickly spiraled out of control. An elderly mother was selling her property for $150,000. The closing proceeded as normal until the seller came to the office to sign. She brought her son, who was not a party to the transaction.

When Kelly asked the mother questions, the son jumped in and answered all questions on behalf of his mother. At first, he did not come across as overbearing and seemed like he was lending a hand to his elderly mother, but he did not let the mother speak. Kelly felt this was unusual, but insisted she talk with the mother directly — without any third-party influence. When she asked the son to leave the room, he immediately became irate. The son insisted on staying. Fearing the mother was being taken advantage of, Kelly asked both to leave the office.

Kelly received numerous phone calls from the purchaser of the property, who was adamant they complete the transaction. She even received a phone call from the mother, asking if she could come back in to sign.

The mother was evasive when Kelly asked questions about whether she was being forced to sell her home and Kelly could hear the son screaming in the background. Kelly’s next avenue was to call the buyer’s lender to explain the situation. The lender was sympathetic but offered little to no information, since they only represented the buyer.

After more research, Kelly found the property value was likely twice the $150,000 sales price. The buyer was a neighbor who lived with his mother and worked in local law enforcement. The buyer was also an acquaintance of the son.

After feeling the pressure from all the principals, Kelly agreed to have the mother come back and sign — as long as the son allowed her to sign alone. Reluctantly the son agreed, yet the son once again attended the signing.

In the lobby, the son became overbearing; he was angry and insisted his mother would not answer any questions without him, even after Kelly refused to proceed with him in attendance. Finally, the son relented and agreed to wait outside while the mother signed.

Once alone, Kelly asked the mother some basic questions. Her answers indicated she was competent and she was fully aware of the sale of her property. However, when asked, “Why are you selling?” her answer was heartbreaking. She felt it was the only way she could get away from her abusive son.

Hearing this, Kelly made the correct call to resign and not proceed with the closing. Kelly’s only fear was the son would just take the transaction elsewhere. Kelly asked the mother if she had any other family or friends to help her. Unfortunately, her son was her only family.

Ultimately, Kelly received a cash reward from the Company for making the brave and correct call to go against all the principals in this transaction and resign.

Under the Mississippi Vulnerable Adults Act, any person – including an attorney and financial service provider – that suspects or knows that a vulnerable adult is being abused, neglected, or exploited, MUST report such knowledge or suspicion to the Department of Human Services.
See Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-7(1).