Last week, we didn’t have enough money in our client’s account to pay her assisted living bill, so we sent a report of expenses to her son, who is also her power of attorney. We noticed that there was a check for $10,000 payable to the granddaughter (“Becca”) of my client (“Brenda”), on which Becca had probably forged the signature. When we looked back, we found quite a few checks to Becca. We didn’t think anything of it at the time because in the past Brenda had been helping Becca. I had no reason to doubt the grandmother had a good relationship with the granddaughter because I was never told otherwise.

Turns out that Becca stole a checkbook and wrote herself checks to the tune of $22,000.

Her mother, aunt, and uncle were furious with her, and they gave her a deadline to repay the stolen money in installments. She didn’t live up to the agreement, and she finally admitted that she forged the checks. The family and I corresponded about it, and they decided to file a police report and press charges. This was when “soft skills” and judgment came into play.

I filed the police report, but Brenda’s children and I decided not to tell her that her granddaughter had stolen from her — and here’s a story to illustrate why we were so hesitant:

My friend’s father’s financial advisor informed him that his niece stole close to $2 million from his parents’ estate. The grandmother was left with nothing. The family pressed charges, and the niece was convicted and is now in jail. The grandmother was devastated and destitute, and  she passed away heartbroken, in less than eight weeks.

Dementia does not just wreak havoc on people’s memories. Emotions are affected by it, too. We told the truth, but in a more general way: We had to open new accounts because there was “a fraud issue.”

In this case, the bank should have detected the fraud. Next week, join me on the wild ride it took to get Brenda’s money returned to her.