April 15, 2014

It is not surprising that Mickey Rooney’s estate may become embroiled in litigation.  Mr. Rooney was married nine times; he was survived by a number of children and stepchildren, and was estranged from his current wife at the time of his death.  Such full lives often lead to complicated estates.

More troubling was that shortly before his death, Mr. Rooney spoke about being a victim of elder abuse (both verbally and financially) perpetuated by his stepson.  In 2011, Mr. Rooney delivered emotional testimony before the United States Senate about the fear he felt when his stepson, who managed his finances, would lash out at him when he asked questions about missing money or mismanaged investments.  Shortly before his death, Mr. Rooney (through a conservatorship) had reached a settlement with his stepson that involved his stepson paying back over 2 million dollars for misappropriated funds.  It is not known if his estate will now receive any of these funds.

Mr. Rooney, who worked for over 80 years, left an estate valued at just $18,000.00.  He wisely appointed a neutral party, his conservatorship lawyer, as the executor of the estate.  However, the modest nature of his estate does not mean it will remain litigation free. There are already rumblings about a family dispute as where to bury Mr. Rooney.

On the issue of financial elder abuse, a few days ago, the Canadian federal government tabled new legislation, the Digital Privacy ActOne of the goals of the new legislation is to protect seniors from fraud and financial abuse.  The new legislation will allow financial institutions to notify officials or a next of kin if they suspect that an elderly client is the victim of financial abuse.  Currently, bank officials need to obtain the consent of their client before disclosing information to a third party or to continue investigating the matter.

It is too early to predict whether the proposed legislation will have the intended effect. Obviously privacy issues are a great concern.  However, the government is attempting to address the growing fear of financial abuse among Canada’s aging population.

Thanks for reading.