A grieving family lost out on £200,000 of their inheritance after a toyboy married their 91-year-old mum in secret.
Joan Blass passed away in March 2016, with her son and daughter having endured a ‘nightmare’ ordeal ever since.
Her children first became concerned when the man, who was 23 years younger than their mum, befriended her and ended up moving into her home just five months before her death, according to the Mirror.
Daughter Daphne Franks’ worry grew when she realized that her elderly mum was not aware that the man was living in her home and did not know his name or where he came from.
Speaking to Leeds Live, she said: “Mum never seemed to know he lived there.
“She was asking, ‘what is his name? Where did he come from?'” At this stage, Joan could barely recall her own name, let alone that of her new toyboy.”
When she died, the family discovered that Mr Folan had married her and the dementia sufferer was still wearing the wedding ring from her late husband Ron.
Ron died in 2008 after 50 years of the couple being together.
Her new marriage meant her two children Daphne, 52, and Michael, 63, lost out on their £200,000 inheritance because the registry office ceremony annulled her will.
Daphne, from Skipton, discovered three days after her mother’s death that she had been married in a civil ceremony at Leeds Town Hall.
Speaking to Predatory Marriage UK, Daphne said: “We had contacted my mother’s GP on so many occasions, the police, the social services, and had also taken legal advice and had been told that she could not make another will or marry again because of her severe dementia.”
The marriage meant the will Mrs Blass had drawn up, naming her two children as beneficiaries, was void and she died intestate, meaning her new husband automatically inherited her assets.
Daphne decided to take legal action after Folan, now 70, took over the funeral arrangements.
The hearing lasted four days but sadly for the family, siding with Mr Folan.
Mrs Franks and her relatives were left with a £200,000 legal bill.
On top of that, none of Joan’s relatives were invited to her funeral and she was buried in an unmarked grave.
Since the “nightmare” the family have been pushing for action to stop “predatory marriages”. Predatory Marriage UK aims to reform marriage laws and procedures to protect people with dementia.
In 2021 Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East, called on the PM to stop elderly and vulnerable people being preyed upon by tricksters leading to families losing their inheritance.
Mr Hamilton first began campaigning on the matter a few years ago after hearing a story he could “hardly believe it was possible in modern Britain”.
He said: “It’s not good enough for a registrar simply to say that because one of the participants in the marriage ceremony was smiling at the time, that meant consent was happily given.”
The family have been working with Hourglass charity to welcome round-the-clock help. Mrs Franks said a 24/7 helpline would make an “absolute difference”.
The Frank family have recently been working with Hourglass charity to get round-the-clock help for those affected by elder abuse. Ms Franks said a 24/7 helpline would make an “absolute difference.”
She added that if she had known about a helpline before she would have “definitely rung it”.
The Hourglass charity said it was moving Its helpline to a 24/7 operation because more than a quarter of the calls it received went unanswered during out of hours.
It said Home Office funding meant it was now able to extend its service to make sure calls were being answered day and night.
Richard Robinson, Hourglass CEO, said: “Thankfully we are increasingly aware of other forms of abuse like child abuse and domestic violence, but the abuse of older people remains in the shadows even though it affects millions.
“So many people are suffering and don’t know where to turn for help.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.