‘My sister has helped herself to mum’s money, but how do I prove it?’

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That said, for civil claims arising for fraudulent transactions, the six years begins on the date the fraud is discovered, or reasonably could have been discovered.

And therein lies another problem with your mum’s potential claim.

The legal doctrine of laches asserts that a person wishing to bring a legal claim has a duty to move forward with enforcement of their legal rights within a reasonable timeframe. In practice, this imposes a duty of diligence on potential claimants. I do fully appreciate your mum has only just discovered the financial irregularities you mention, but the point must be raised that she should have checked her bank statements at some point between 2002 and now.

All in all, I fear your sister has been – and remains – one step ahead. It is good news some of the funds that were taken have been recovered. I suspect that with regard to the balance, putting together a legally compelling case either under the criminal law or a civil claim, will be hard, unless say someone in the know (does your sister have a disgruntled ex you could speak to?) will co-operate with your investigation.

However, if your mum feels your sister has acted inappropriately and she is £20,000 lighter, one legal matter your mum can still control is what happens to her estate on death

I would strongly urge your mum to make a will which expressly deals with this issue. It may be, for instance, she leaves your sister out of her will altogether, or just ensures you (and any other siblings) all get £20,000 ahead of any distribution of the balance. It is for your mum to decide how she wants to structure her own will, but it could be an opportunity to redress any perceived injustice visited upon her by your sister.


Ask a Lawyer is written by Gary Rycroft, solicitor at Joseph A Jones & Co, and published twice a month on Tuesdays. Email your questions to [email protected]

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