We had an uncomfortable situation arise at BookLocker.com this week. Please read what happened below and, if you have any input or an opinion about this situation, please share your wisdom in the comments section below.
Companies that provide publishing services for authors typically have a large percentage of elderly clients. Why? It’s actually quite simple.
1. Many folks don’t have the time to write books when they’re young.
2. Some writers don’t have extra money to self-publish when they’re raising children.
3. Some people have been sitting on a book idea, or even a manuscript-in-progress, for years, yet don’t have the time or energy necessary to finish it, nor to promote it, until they are retired.
A few years ago, we were contacted by a man who said his dad (a BookLocker.com author) had died, and that we needed to assign all future royalties to him (the son). Because my level of trust in people has fallen drastically in my adult years, I posted a copy of the exchange to the author’s account, which was only accessible by the author. Turns out that author was still very much alive. His son was trying to steal his copyrights, and his royalties.
A couple of years ago, an elderly woman published two books through us. We worked with her and her son throughout the process. Sometimes, her communications with me seemed a bit “off,” for lack of a better term. Something just wasn’t quite…right. After the books were finished, she started placing large orders for her books. A hundred copies one week. Fifty the next. Another 100 after that. I sent her a note, asking what she was doing to sell so many copies of her books. I wanted to hire her to write an article on book promotion for WritersWeekly! She wrote back, saying she was giving them all away, hoping that all her friends, neighbors, church members, etc. would tell a friend or two, and that those people would then buy her book. I told her to stop ordering copies, and to wait to see if any of the free copies she’d given away would lead to increased sales. I also once again gave her the link to our book, 90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book’s Daily Marketing Plan (https://booklocker.com/books/5948.html). A few days later, she attempted to place another order.
I put the order on hold, and put myself in her children’s shoes.
Would I want my mother to continue to purchased and then give away hundreds of free books on the mistaken notion that doing so would lead to best-seller status? No, I would not. I then called my own mom, explained the situation, and asked her if she would get offended if she was spending money like that, and if a business owner then contacted me about it.
There were three things to consider:
1. There was the personal issue of needing to contact an elderly author’s adult child, and all the fallout that could come from that. The author could very well be completely coherent and financially stable and, if so, they should have the right to spend their money in any way they want, even frivolously.
2. There was the moral issue of knowing someone is spending money on a marketing tactic that isn’t going to work and, if she was suffering from dementia or some other ailment, I didn’t want her to suffer financially later for her actions now.
3. And, there was also a potential legal liability. Our competitor, Author Solutions (who owns AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford, and others), was sued (class-action…twice). Part of the second lawsuit dealt with how they did business with senior citizens. This would never be an issue for us because we treat all authors, especially our senior citizen authors, with love and respect. If they’re doing something to harm themselves, we’re going to take (what can sometimes be uncomfortable) steps to protect them from making mistakes with their money.
So, after speaking to our staff, and to my mother, I contacted the author’s son. He thanked me profusely and she didn’t place any more orders for copies of her book after that. I also never heard from her again. But, at least her bank account was left intact.
And, that leads us to this week’s quandary.
We were contacted by an author whose book we just finished. It’s a large, well-written, heavily illustrated book. At no time during the publishing process did I get any red-flags during my communications with him. In fact, I never even knew his age.
He recently contacted us about the sequel. I sent him the link for returning authors (because they get a discount on setup fees). He asked me to contact his adult child about payment, saying she would take care of it, and gave me an email address.
I forwarded his note to the email address with our link. The adult child emailed me back, saying the father is in his 80’s and has dementia, that he’s been spending money they can’t afford, and that he’s been hiding it from them. She then said she was lying to him now (meaning, I believed, that she was just letting him believe she was going along with his spending). I told her we had experienced something similar before and that we understood the situation. I assumed I wouldn’t hear from him again.
So, imagine my shock this morning when I logged into our author dashboard and there was note from the author that said, “My daughter did send payment for (title removed), but never received a receipt. Please check status.”
So, his daughter lied to him about our company and, if we don’t respond, he’s going to blame us, and perhaps even post complaints about our company online because 1. he thinks she paid his fees and 2. he now thinks we’re ignoring him (meaning he thinks we stole from him).
So, is this author really suffering from dementia? Or, is this a case of a greedy adult child trying to stop their parent from spending the adult kids’ future inheritance? And, why is she lying to him, and involving us (and risking our reputation) in her deceit?
So, dear readers, how would you handle this situation? Please post your advice/opinions in the comments box below. I’d appreciate your feedback and, next week, I’ll let you know what we did to try to fix this very uncomfortable and sad situation.
PART II: THINGS GOT NASTY! – Author With Dementia…Or Victim of Daughter’s Deceit?
When An Author Dies, The Vultures Will Rise!
When Authors Die…What Happens To Their Books?
Who Gets Your Book(s) When You Die? – Yet Another Case of Heirs Fighting Over an Author’s Copyrights
WHO’S SCAMMING GRANNY? Snakes That Prey on Elderly Authors
I Based My Character On My Elderly Client/Friend. Do I Really Need A Notarized Release? Yes!
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises.
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You are being lied to by the daughter. If you get mixed up in this it will not go well. Professionals stay out of family battles and business. POA must be proven but if he can write and it makes sense she doesn’t get POA until he can’t, at least up here in Canada.
One nugget of advice that I’ve learned over many decades in business and raising two fine sons is this: never tell someone like this client’s daughter what they should do. Leave that for their lawyer or their priest!
If you are ever tempted to begin a sentence with, “What you have to do now is…”, or, “You need to…”, stop and reconsider your posture immediately.
What you DO tell someone, especially if things get heated, is what YOU are going to do. It is up to them to make decisions as to what they are going to do.
As tempting as it is, never give such instruction to an angry person. Your sincere desire to set things right will fall on deaf ears every time, and tend to escalate the situation needlessly.
Thanks for listening.
I agree with the people advising you to notify both parties. Since the father did ask you to speak to the daughter, I think (although I’m not a lawyer) that opens up your ability to communicate with both parties. I’d send a email to both, going over the facts and including the email chains to both. End by saying that you’d like to publish a second book, but will wait until the two of them resolve their differences.
This issue is really between him and his daughter. IF he has dementia, and it’s a big IF, then this gives them the opportunity to discuss/fight about such things as treatment options, power of attorney, how finances are handled. If he doesn’t have dementia, he needs to know he has a dishonest daughter.
A third reason may be that the daughter believes her elderly father publishing a book is reason for considering him delusional. Non-artistic people can take a critical or disparaging view of creative people spending money on their art–especially if he’s old, never made a living from writing, and she’s viewing any money he spends as her money. She might think he’s crazy, when he’s just following his dream.
If your notification causes difficulty in their relationship, that is not your problem. It’s already difficult and if dementia is involved will only become more difficult.
Based on the replies, it looks like you have received a lot of advice. Here is mine, FWIW.
The only reasonable,professional thing you can do, IMHO, is, give your best advice to your client ONLY, and then accept whatever decision he/she makes. You are not this person’s life coach, adviser, protector, etc… you are his publisher… period.
You have no ethical or moral obligation beyond giving your best advice. You are not responsible for their decisions, or their priorities.
Angie, Melinda LaFevers’ Advice is right on the money. Additionally, what several others have posted regarding durable powers of attorney, conservatorship and the responsibilities they encompass are in play — if the daughter simply contacted you when the invoice or contract arrived, you can’t be sure that she has the appropriate authority to manage her father’s finances. You need to see a legal document that transfers those financial powers to her. Believe me, no bank in the world would allow a son or daughter to authorize any changes to a customer’s account without documented proof of their legal right to do so.
I’d recommend doing what Melinda suggested, and at the same time, contact the daughter to let her know that you require legal documentation of her authority by some date of your choosing, after which you do what others are saying and send an email to the father, cc’ing the daughter, stating that you are unable to find a record of any payments, asking the father to produce the canceled check, money order or credit card transaction data for you.
Good luck. It sounds like a real tangle.
Lying is lying, and I do not trust people who lie and think it is okay or justify it. If they lie to others, regardless of the reason, they will lie to me.
I agree with Wendy Lou Jones. Copy both parties in a response. I don’t think I would delve into the details of the daughter’s lies, specifically, but I would briefly mention the conversation you had with the daughter and that you have not received the payment as stated.
I would also address the email to both so that they can both clearly see each others names before the body of the email. I would also request that the two communicate the finances openly and honestly and not involve you as that is unprofessional and unethical (at least from the adult child’s end of the story).
If it progresses in a circle from there, I would cc the communication from daughter and/or author to both parties in any potential follow up response to ensure you are maintaining clarity and that your words are not being construed as lies by someone else who is in turn do the same to the author.
That’s how I would handle it. Keep it professional. Keep it ethical. Protect your company’s reputation.
I’d say, **do not** contact authorities (except, of course, for lawyers), for this may end up messing up the life of a family that you never actually met and that you don’t know anything about –so, why send the hound dogs after them, when you have no clue what kind of consequences contacting the authorities would have for them?
I’d suggest that your actions be within the sphere of personal responsibilty, Angela. Relegating an (unknown) matter to “the authorities” is throwing the ball at someone else.
If the above thoughts seem a bit incomprehensible to you or to any of your readers (as US citizens), please bear in mind that I come from a different culture (overseas).
This is a very tricky one.
One thing I would do (if it were me) would be to copy BOTH parties on the text of the adult child / father immediately.
Let BOTH people know that this is what has been said by each communicator. You are certainly not the person to decide how people should spend their money.
If there is an issue of mental health in this case, you are neither responsible nor qualified as a neurologist or a physician and can not be expected to rule — for or against — anyone’s mental health status. That issue is in their laps.
Suggest (nicely) to both parties that they need to be communicating clearly and directly to one another — not using Booklocker as a 3rd-party company for a communication game of ‘Hide-and-Seek’.
If that action leads to a split in the family, or fallout between them, so be it.
I am in Minnesota, and I can’t tell you the number of times this year alone I have heard on our local radio-station of adult children who have been fined and sent to jail for stealing ‘vulnerable adult’s’ money. I would be more likely to believe that (while there may be occasional lapses in good judgement from the elderly father) there is more likely a situation of a very greedy adult child, squeezing a parent into a very tight corner (until they can get a court order against them).
This is disgusting!
But, due to the frequency I have been hearing it on the news, I will rule in favor of the father — and demand LEGAL proof of incompetency before pulling the plug on the elderly man’s dream of a book.
Just my two-cents here.
Townsend Makes perfect sense to me as he has a background in banking and that is where most people keep their money, therefore his experience and the way he put it, protects the bank or publisher from legal liability in either case of who is right or wrong.
Hi Angela, as my 81-year-old mom is going through early stages of dimentia and spending far more than she should or is willing to admit to, I can sympathize with your dilemma and that of your clients and their family members.
First, I’m not a lawyer and I’m Canadian, so our laws might be a bit different than yours, however, an email to all parties concerned, asking for clarification and specifics about the financial arrangement with respect to the books is certainly within your right as the publishing service. In other words, opening up a dialogue and keeping concerned family members in the loop is one way to go. This might make things awkward among parent and child, but you’ve already reached the awkward stage, it could save everyone legal hassle and wasted time and resources in the end.
The grown child of a spouse with dimentia should be obtaining legal documentation of some sort to verify any claim that they have a right to stop or divert financial transactions. (In BC where I live, this can be done through an Endearing Power of Attorney and by obtaining a joint bank account with parent and child, and a medical diagnosis from a physician certainly helps). In other words, regardless of how the senior is spending his or her money, a child has no legal right to interfere without correct documentation. Ethically, however, the children could be trying to do the right thing by their parent, but you can’t know that without the correct documentation to back up their claims. This is is why I suggest an open dialogue between all concerned.
There are are couple of three ways you can handle it. Just because a receipt wasn’t received does not mean there was no record of the transaction. So you can ask the author to request a copy of the check, money order, or the electric money transfer putting the onus of responsibility on the daughter to produce it.
I advise talking with your attorney about any obligations on your part or whether you need legally to CYA by communicating with the daughter and requesting a copy of her power of attorney, legal guardianship, etc. Your atty can also advise on whether any authorities should be contacted and whether it should be done by you or your atty.
Or it’s possible that your attorney may advise you to share all the communications you have with both parties, ask for the record of payment being made, and indicate what needs to happen in order for you to proceed with publishing his book.
Not a comfortable position to be put in at all. I wish you all the best in handling it and getting a good outcome!
Wow! What a potential can of worms. My father suffered from dementia. It is an ugly, heartbreaking disease for all involved. No two cases are the same. It sounds to me like this gentleman still has his wits about him, otherwise, he would not be communicating with you on a level that shows no red flags. Obviously, from your previous encounters, you are mindful of potential mental problems. That being said, I think the daughter needs to have a conversation with her father. Now, she has made that more difficult by lying to him. People with dementia deserve to be treated with respect at all times. It would probably be in your best interest to put the contract on hold until the father and daughter are in agreement. On the other hand, if the book is well-written with beautiful illustrations, how sad it would be to deny this gentleman the wonderful satisfaction of seeing his hard work published. And wouldn’t it be a wonderful keepsake for his daughter and the rest of his family to cherish and hand down to future generations. If my beloved father had written such a book, no matter how good or poorly written, I would have personally paid to have it published and placed my copy in the most prominent place in my home. The few hundred dollars Booklocker charges for a returning author is insignificant compared to the joy of having a book written by one’s parent. Oh, boy, sorry, getting too emotional here. Good luck with this quandary.
Angela, I do like Joe’s and Johnny’s thoughtful and measured advice. Though I am not a dementia expert I would add to that advice your own words for your consideration: “It’s a large, well-written, heavily illustrated book. At no time during the publishing process did I get any red-flags during my communications with him. In fact, I never even knew his age.” FWIW, that does not fit my perception of the work or interactions of a person with dementia, though it’s not clear why his daughter is involved, and regrettably, she seems to have a shaky notion of what is ethical or respectful. All things considered, if the only reason you have doubts about your author’s competence is the daughter’s assertion that he is not, and her admission that she lies to him, you might want to ask him straight out -by email- why his daughter, rather than he, would be paying for the sequel.
I was the owner and publisher of a small chain of senior citizens newspapers in Canada for nearly 20 years and dementia is a topic we discussed fairly often in our pages.
Your contract is with a certain individual, not the relatives. If the son/daughter/other wishes to deal with the client’s affairs, then they need a power of attorney or other legal document authorizing them to do so. This is probably the only protection for you, as if you deal with the author and he/she actually does have dementia issues, you could possibly be held liable after being warned. Although a court might not find that to be the case, defending against it would be very costly.
If you deal with the son/daughter/other, you could easily be sued by the author for doing so – and even the son/daughter/other in the extreme case as you didn’t have authority to deal with them.
I recognize and applaud your concern and that you wish to do the right thing – but given the potential for litigation, you need to protect yourself. As noted above, should an elderly client start acting oddly, it’s best to speak to someone with some authority. In Ontario, Canada, we have the Public Trustee, who can look into these affairs, particularly if there is no relative available. I’m sure there is a similar authority in your state. Your last fallback is to contact a relative – again, opening yourself to liability for discussing your author’s private affairs with someone else.
There are no easy answers here.
His daughter put you in a very bad position. You need to contact her again and let her know that you’re obligated to tell your client the truth, that you have not received the payment, and that in the future his requests for more books but be faxed in and have BOTH signatures and a notorized stamp. That will take the onus of being the bad guy off you.
As a side note: My father gave my sister power of attorney so she could take care of his bills. He had a stroke, and although he was still sharp in conversation, the stroke pretty much destroyed his math ability – he could no longer do even simple addition. He was also hard of hearing, and it became very hard for him to do business over the phone. So for his convenience, she handled all the business stuff – but she always deferred to him, and asked him what he wanted to do about things, because losing his math didn’t mean he had lost his marbles. But she was also quick to point out that he sometimes did unneeded spending, and he didn’t have a lot of money to do that with. So, with his agreement, she dropped some of his magazine subscriptions, quit some of his charitable giving – especially to the scammers – and did some other things. But she always made sure he was aware and approved.
If you have never had any suspicion of problems dealing with the author, I would reply that you have no record of any payment or attempt of payment being made, and ask for a copy of cancelled check, bank statement, credit card statement, or whatever as proof that the payment has been made, to help you investigate the matter further.
If you didn’t detect signs of diminished capacity during your extended business dealings with the man, it raises a red flag about his child. Trust your instincts.
If someone is spending recklessly, it should show up in his credit report. You are a creditor of his. That should help you decide whether your client needs protection from himself or from his family.
True or not–the man needs to protect his assets with a trust from a lawyer he believes in.
All of these responses echo the process you should follow. Imagine if you were only one of the companies the author deals with. If I were you I would put the entire predicament in the hands of your attorney.
Wow. Tricky situation. I believe the reason it’s difficult to determine what to do here is that you simply do NOT have enough information yet for a definite route of progression. If I was in your shoes, and assuming that you did save all the e-mails from both author and the adult child, this is what I would do. 1) since the author did request that you contact the adult child in the first place, I would actually show the adult child the e-mail from the author asking about the invoice and see what his or her response is, or proposed solution to this is 2) I would also let the adult child know that, since the author is the actual client,you will need to show him the e-mail the adult child sent you which specifically said he or she was lying to him,(and if you need to do so, perhaps leaving out the part about the author having dementia, to avoid upset to the author), again seeing what the child’s response to this is. 3) On whether it’s a case of the author having dementia, or just a greedy child, I don’t believe you can ascertain that with the existing information you have or on the basis of a few e-mails. If there was a suspected abusive situation, contacting authorities of one sort or another would be in order.
As an aside, and just an opinion on my part, you mentioned the author had already produced one well-written book. How demented could he be if he managed to do that? He also was alert and astute enough to request an invoice for funds paid, Again though, it’s all speculative as dementia symptoms can come and go.l
In any event, I think you need to get more information, and 1 and 2 above is how I would go about doing that, then move forward from there. You can also perhaps let the author know that you have not received any payment as yet from the adult child, and let the adult child know you have informed them of that, again seeing what the adult child’s response is to that, and how they plan to resolve it, I would also request that the child simply tell his or her father the truth about not paying.
I would contact an attorney to be sure I wasn’t making a difficult situation worse. Then, assuming the attorney agreed, I would contact both father and daughter in an email directed to both. I would explain the daughter did not pay for the publication of the second book and told me she would talk with her father about it. I’d then ask that further communications be from each of them together so there would be no further miscommunications among us.
Sometimes people with dementia have periods of clarity; other times they are confused. I’m sure you know this. But it seems as though that could have a part in this series of communications.
God bless you and Richard for the honest company you have created and the way you deal with your authors. You care about doing the right thing, not just the legal thing, and that is a rare find in many companies today.
Yes, decline to maintain a further business relationship with the parties involved and also consult your business lawyer on how to do this, that is how to word your response. That response can then be a prototype for future issues of this kind. And there will be more!
As a former business owner, I would deal only with the client, not relatives or friends. They are not the client. At this point I would respond to the client with the facts – “Payment has not been received on this account.” It is not my responsibility to determine the mental capacity of the client, or the rights of the relative in the bill paying process. In my former business, I handled the bill paying for seniors some of whom had relatives who kept track on their own. It was up to them to take the necessary steps to gain control if needed. Until they had a court order they had no standing. In cases where I wondered about the client’s mental capacity, which in some cases diminished the longer we worked together, I might inquire of the client why they were paying out to someone, but until they are officially declared incapacitated and handling of money officially turned over to someone else, it is my opinion you simply have no power to intercede. Do keep a paper trail of your communications with client and family.
Yet the daughter is supposedly in charge of making payments, paying bills, and so on? I totally understand your concern. However, if the daughter does not have power of attorney, something is wrong with this scenario. How has he been ‘spending money he doesn’t have’ and in what sense ‘hiding it’ from the daughter? I don’t know the legal ramifications of finding out if she does have POT, and it’s difficult to ascertain long distance, but perhaps if you have a physical address for the writer/father, you could make a phone call?
Assess his coherence, whether he might be in assisted living, which could bring more people into an awareness of possible fraud, or whether he lives with the daughter or not. A call to his local elder services agency might result in a current assessment. I think most of us have seen some version of family feuds over a parent’s money. It’s not your job to ‘fix’ the situation, but it is your reputation that is also of concern, never mind your sense of human compassion. At the very least, you can send a return email to the daughter indicating you cannot be part of a lie and cc the father’s attorney if that information is available. I’m just brainstorming here, so if any of these suggestions make sense, good. If not…then thanks for alerting more people to the complications of business on line.
Relating to, “Author with Dementia…,” I must write that my own children have done similar things to me. Briefly, my story is that following being gang-tagged and run out of the town I considered home, (I don’t know people who belong to gangs,) I relocated to a town 50 miles away where no one in my family knew of my whereabouts. The first two years I was there, my children did not know where I was. I thought it safe to hostess a family reunion there then, and following that the horrors began; my outdoor plants were poisoned or cut up and my cats were tortured or stolen, always within 48 hours of having any family contact by text, email, phone call, or in person. I installed an elaborate camera surveillance system, and have videos of my (then) 18 year old grandson as the culprit. He is the child of one of my daughters. I could not acquire a restraining order against him because the videos were in infrared, not color, and the judge said he was 90% sure the kid was the perpetrator, he needed to be 100% sure to issue that sort of thing on the kid’s record.
After three years of that nonsense, I recently moved to a metro center location where I am staying with a cousin. Another of my daughters pleaded with me to tell her where I was going to and after several weeks told her I was staying nearby Phoenix with my cousin. I did not give her any further information, and told her then that I was hesitant to share anything with her because she would tell the boy’s mother. Within 48 hours, his house was tagged and my plants (taken there in pots) were cut up. That daughter had no information about my cousin, but the grandson’s mother knew his name and is adept at researching public records.
The second daughter, I do believe, is innocently in the middle of what has now become a family tragedy. All of my children have estranged me from contacting them or their children; I am not invited to special occasions or their homes, and have been told to never contact them or my grandchildren again. I receive rude texts from them telling me I am delusional, and stage the dramas myself.
This grandson has a mental illness in my opinion, because he always enjoyed harming animals and people. And what a feast it must be, to pursue and torture me. Yesterday, I acquired a new home in another rural town.I will have to find a friend to set up an account for the natural gas, because the kid’s mother works for that company and has access to customer account information. It will only be a matter of time before I am discovered again, I do suspect.
I am in graduate school at ASU, operate two businesses, and substitute teach in local schools. I am victimized by distorted, pleasure-seeking family members. After reading the article, I was a bit relieved to learn that there are others who are also tragically victimized by their children. I was also saddened to realize that younger generations today, on a seemingly wide spread basis, do cruel things to older family members that my generation could not have imagined. And not only that, pull in recruits to expand the hostilities.
After reading this story, one question keeps twirling in my head. IF this gentleman does have dimentia,
how is he writing good coherent books?
I understand that what you did in this situation was done in good faith with the best interests of your client. However, as the client has contacted you directly, the right thing to do is to make a direct reply. You could begin by telling him that you did not in fact receive the money to publish the book and advise him to discuss the matter with his soon. I do not think it’s your responsibility to go into the reason why the son didn’t pay the money, that is between the two of them. I would probably get in contact with the son too and ask him to clarify the matter with his father as the current situation could cause damage to your reputation. The dad may want to experience the pleasure of seeing his book in print regardless of sales and this should be his right unless he has legally been deemed unfit to look after his own finances.
Hmm… difficult one. The safest route is to contact a lawyer specializing in guardianship issues and ask them how to proceed. Otherwise, I’d get back to the author & explain that you believe no payment had been made, however you’ll double-check your records, (effectively buying a little time) and also clarify if his daughter is functioning as his bookkeeper or has power of attorney, as you need to know if his daughter can countermand his decisions. I’d also e-mail daughter explaining that author has continued to contact you and asking daughter for proof of legal guardianship and/or proof of appointment as author’s bookkeeper and/or holding power or attorney. If she’s his bookkeeper, she needs to forward payment; otherwise, she needs to advise father that she hasn’t actually made payment and will not be. Either way, you also need to clarify that claiming your business is engaging in fraud isn’t acceptable. Unfortunately, basing decisions purely on a second-party’s say-so is not sound business practice. Interested to see what your response was, and how matters worked out.
As a trustee for a person with severe dementia and with power of attorney for that person I always appreciate receiving reports of erratic behavior, especially with regard to spending. Alerted by those reports and working in conjunction with the bank I was able to stop the most inappropriate spending without denying her the modest things she may (or may not) have wanted.
Like they said. Contact the daughter. Tell her – politely – that you understand the (possible) problem but that leaving you in the middle puts your business in an untenable position. Document everything. Contact a lawyer. My $0.02.
OTOH, I can understand why she might lie to him, particularly if her parent gets belligerent. Her goal is to bring peace, so she says what she can to achieve that. The effect on your business is way down on her list of priorities.
I think my suggestion would be to reply to the author that no payment was received from the adult child and ask him (the author) to send you copies of the canceled check or whatever. That way (I think) you would be absolved of trying to “steal” the author’s money or ignoring him. Let the author and his child get to the bottom of the situation themselves without getting further involved yourself. Jo Fulkerson email@example.com
The author’s email sounds coherent and suggests that short term memory is OK, which it perhaps wouldn’t be with Dementia. Probably your only option is to email the author and say that you have not yet received payment.
In response to this weeks quandary about your issue with the father and daughter: Since the father asked you to contact the daughter about payment I would send an email to the father with a copy to the daughter telling him that you never received the daughter’s check and suggest that she check her bank account to see if the check was ever cashed.
I concur with the others in thinking that at the very least, the child (or other heirs) should be able to produce a legal document giving them the right to look after their parent’s (or siblings or other relatives) legal and financial affairs. Also, there may be a elderly protection advocacy agency (as the banking readers mentioned) that you could contact. What does your attorney say?
I would forward the father’s message to the son and tell him you’re not comfortable with the way he’s handling the situation. You don’t like to be put in the position of contributing to deceiving your client and unless he can produce evidence that his father is indeed incapacitated, you’ll be forced to deal directly with your client and inform him that his bill hasn’t been paid.
Let’s assume everyone here is telling the truth, or at least the “truth” as they know it. Bad blood if the children are right, and if the adults are, if you _do_not_ sell the material or take the money. So, darned if you do or if you don’t.
However…there’s the extended issue of liability. Taking money for services from people you’ve never actually met and never will (likely) can put your reputation, not to mention your fortune, in peril _if_ there’s some serious financial issues involved and the adults really can’t afford it.
What’s the downside of continuing to do business as if the adult is lucid and liquid but they are not? Simple: You end up getting charged with elder abuse, and in Florida where you now live that’s a very serious business. And, you could get sued by the children _if_ the adults _really_can’t_ afford the money they spent on you _and_you_were_informed.
So, my advice: stop doing business with _whoever_ is involved with them. Craft a formal letter, be prepared to refund some money, and wash you hands of these situations as soon as they arise. Because you deal with essentially phantoms on the end of an e-mail string, you have no real good way of knowing what’s really going on, and you have no real good reasons to continue the likely pittance you might get from their business. Protect yourself and walk away.
Unless the child can produce a valid POA and Decalaration of Incapacity, beyond your checking to confirm with the client that their wishes are being met, by law your contract is with the author and you do as they instruct. If you have concerns the author cannot alleviate, you sever ties
It was very nice that you nipped the book giveaway in the bud, but that was an exception.
I agree with the above. I think you need to tell the father that you did not receive payment and tell the daughter that how she handles the situation is her business but that you can’t be a party to that kind of lie. And, suggest that if she believes her father to be incapacitated, she needs to go through the court system. A red flag for me, though, if it was actually said this way, is he is spending money that WE can’t afford. Does that mean her inheritance? Or is she living off her father’s money? I’d stay out of the middle of it and definitely not lie.
As the father, your client, involved the adult “child” copy both on any correspondence, no place for being spun by either!! See what that flushes out.
I would “pass the buck” to the Social Welfare authorities in his home town.
This is a very tough case. Children do try to take advantage of demented parents, but people with dementia are very often unaware of what is really going on and frequently make accusations about poor treatment by their children that are, in fact, false. I used to work in this field. Even physicians get duped. The upshot is, you are in no position to be able to evaluate what is going on. You’re not an expert and you’re not there. You’ve never met these people. I think you need to make clear that you can’t be complicit in the daughter’s lies, even if she is lying for all the best reasons. It puts you at legal and ethical risk. She needs to find a way to work this out with her father without getting you involved. It’s nice to see a businessperson like you who actually cares and wants to do the right thing. Good luck!
Can the daughter send you a copy of her power of attorney for her father?
I am not a lawyer, but I would tell the son something like this: Thank you for your letter. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to evaluate the mental condition of your father and I cannot prevent him from purchasing products and services. That said, I do not wish to sell services to someone who is mentally impaired. If you are certain your father has dementia, Have you considered gaining legal guardianship of your father so you are in a position to make such choices?
Assuming the son is telling the truth, I feel compassion for him, but he can’t reasonably expect vendors, who are dealing with his father online, to act as referees about his mental condition and actions, unless those actions are patently absurd. And it’s possible the son doesn’t understand legal guardianship, so this might be useful to him as well since this appears to be an ongoing problem that he should address.
Let me add a bit more. If in banking, I suspected elder abuse by a greedy child or caregiver (even one with legal power of attorney), I was required to report it. Likewise, if I suspected an adult was “losing it,” I was required to at the very least tell my manager, who then had to decide whether or not to contact authorities. Some elderly patients started withdrawing lots of money, and we were required to contact someone to protect them from themselves. But it has to do be done by a court. So either the child has papers, or Social Services need to be contacted and they make the decision from there.
(Just wrote a reply which disappeared before I could enter my email and name.) If the parent is incapacitated, the child must have legal guardianship or power of attorney. If not, the child has no say in the matter. If there are no docs to support the child’s claim, and you still feel uncomfortable, you can either decline services or contact authorities in the client’s city. Otherwise, the parent has the right to do whatever they want with their money, and their child has no rights. I dealt with this all the time in banking.