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Check Mate: The Groom was 88 and his bride just 31

George Banton made a good living as a salesman for a Toronto chemical company and kept a close eye on his finances. He bought a house, raised five children and retired with an estate worth about a half-million dollars.

Then, when he was 88, he insisted that his two sons be given access to his bank accounts - just in case "he did something foolish" in his old age. No stranger to the dangers of a failing mind, he'd watched his second wife succumb to Alzheimer's disease and feared the same would happen to him.

Soon afterward, his health began to fail, he moved into Lifestyles, a retirement home, and suddenly started telling people he was a millionaire. He talked of buying a car and house in Bermuda, and developed a close attachment to Muna Yassin, a 31-year-old waitress in the home's restaurant.

Then his family learned that he'd gone to the bank and taken out $10,000, with Ms. Yassin at his side. The two had secretly married and he had rewritten his will, leaving everything to his new bride in the belief that his family had disowned him and she was his only friend.

A bitter court battle ensued, lasting long after his death, over which decisions Mr. Banton had a right to make, and which ones were to be discounted because he'd been stricken with what one doctor diagnosed as early-stage Alzheimer's. In the end the court held that, while Mr. Banton couldn't make financial decisions, he could LEGALLY get married and Ms. Yassin deserved a share of the estate.

"It seems inevitable," the judge observed, "that enhanced longevity will lead to an increase in the frequency of disputes of this kind."

Signing Power: Should people know?

An especially controversial case involves a protracted and highly publicized battle between the husband of a Nova Scotia woman and her family over what she truly wanted.

Helena Munroe was an expert in dementia, having studied cognitive afflictions, and at the first sign she had Alzheimer's disease, she began to get her affairs in order, giving power of attorney to her husband, Sandy. Her family argued that the decision had been thrust upon her, but at 62 and by this point severely debilitated, Mrs. Munroe could no longer speak for herself.

Then her brother came to visit and told Mr. Munroe he was taking Helena out for lunch. Instead, he ESCORTED HER ONTO a plane in Halifax bound for England, using a British passport secured via the Internet.

Mr. Munroe never saw his wife again. She died in a British nursing home while the legal battle played out at an agonizing pace: her husband arguing she'd been kidnapped, her family insisting she'd come willingly. The two sides crossed swords to such a degree, says Jeanne Desveaux, Mr. Munroe's lawyer, that "everybody kind of forgot about what she wanted. It was really quite sad."

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