Predatory marriage and the legal protections we all need in place

Daphne Frank’s devastating account of her mother falling victim to a predatory marriage highlights the need for better protection of vulnerable people who could be targeted by abusers. Members of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), the national membership body which supports older and vulnerable people, has seen an increase of 13% in these types of cases. Which is a huge cause for concern!

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What is currently in place to protect victims?

As it stands, there are little protections in place that help the victims and their loved ones. Once a wedding has occurred, it’s difficult to protect the vulnerable person in question; even with proof of coercion or proof of the victim’s lack of mental capacity. Relatives could also face an emotional and expensive process if they wish to reclaim their loved one’s estate after they’ve passed. 

To protect vulnerable people and stop predatory marriages from happening, we need to ensure capacity testing is thorough and that registrars have sufficient training to spot potential predators who could be taking advantage of someone.

What should I do if I think a loved one has entered a predatory marriage?

If you suspect a family member or loved one has entered a predatory marriage, it’s important you raise your concerns with them, and try to encourage an annulment. If the person in question doesn’t have adequate mental capacity to do so, you can make an application to the Court of Protection.

Similarly, they should also be encouraged to make a new Will as the marriage will have revoked any previous Will. If a person doesn’t have capacity to make a Will, an application for a Statutory Will can be made to the Court of Protection, although this is trickier.

How can I take preventative measures?

These steps can’t fully prevent a predator from marrying and financially or emotionally abusing you or a loved one. However, conversations centred around your later life wishes are a good step to take as a preventative measure. Formalising these by drafting Wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) will give you, or your loved one, a higher level of protection should you, or they, ever lose capacity.

Where possible, you should always speak to a specialist lawyer experienced in this area of law when putting legal protection in place. They’ll be able to provide the best advice on what’s needed according to your situation.

How can Goughs help?

Amongst others at Goughs, Trish Watkins is a member of SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly), the membership organisation for specialist solicitors who support older and vulnerable people. Trish has always had a strong empathy for the elderly and vulnerable and prides herself on being able to engage with them and support them through what can be very difficult times.  To get in touch, contact her via trishwatkins@goughs.co.uk or fill in the form below.

Alternatively, you can also contact affiliate member of STEP and an associate member of SFE, Samantha Pettersen, via samanthapettersen@goughs.co.uk. Samantha loves the personal interaction with clients and being able to help them with difficult personal and emotional circumstances. 

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