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What Do You Do If Elderly Family Member Is Being Financially Abused?

Serving Clients in the Gilbert, Arizona Area

What Do You Do If Elderly Family Member Is Being Financially Abused?
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Although many cases go unreported, the National Council on Aging suggests that the financial exploitation of the elderly may amount to a staggering $36.5 billion annually. That may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Financial elder abuse is when a family member, caregiver, or another individual illegally or improperly uses an elderly person’s assets for their own personal gain without the knowledge or understanding of the elderly person. A recent article from The Sun Times News, “Elder Financial Abuse Can Be A Family Affair,” notes the coming “Great Wealth Transfer” of Baby Boomer assets could lead to a dramatic increase in elder financial abuse.

Even minor memory loss can be exploited by scammers and, sadly, family members. With nearly seven million Americans having moderate cognitive issues, the possibility of financial abuse is growing. Boomers live longer than any previous generation, translating into huge healthcare costs in post-retirement years. At the same time, their children and grandchildren face challenges, including student debt and high homebuying costs. The combination of these issues isn’t pretty.

A contributing factor is the increased misinformation about Medicaid, wills, trusts, guardianship and power of attorney. When seniors make their wishes known and formalize them through an estate plan and trusts to protect their assets, the chances of them becoming victims of exploitation can be minimized.

In many cases, isolation leads to vulnerability. One woman allowed her son’s ex-wife to move into her Colorado home to live with her elderly mother. The ex-wife fell victim to scammers herself and convinced the elderly mother to send two checks totaling $70,000 to two scammers, one claiming to be running a children’s mission in Nigeria and another rescuing animals in Malaysia. The elderly woman’s bank didn’t question the large checks, which it should have. The ex-wife also forged checks worth more than $10,000 on the elderly woman’s account. The promised caregiving never happened, and while the woman was arrested and prosecuted, the family will never recover the money as the ex-wife is unemployable—she was a bookkeeper.

The National Center on Elder Abuse suggests only one in 24 cases of elder abuse is reported to authorities. If abuse of any kind is suspected, it should be reported immediately to the police in the jurisdiction where the senior lives. Financial statements, bank statements, credit card bills, canceled checks and evidence must be provided. Even if you don’t have evidence, suspected abuse should be reported.

Families can be torn apart when heirs battle over inheritances. Two means of prevention are creating an estate plan by an experienced estate planning attorney, with trusted family members or professionals to serve as Power of Attorney and executor. The second is to maintain ongoing contact with the senior, if possible, in person and, if not, via phone calls, video calls and visits. The more involved you are with an aging person’s life, the better your chances of uncovering or preventing financial elder abuse.

To learn more about estate planning in the East Valley, Gilbert, Mesa and Queen Creek, schedule your free consultation with Attorney Jake Carlson by using one of the links above.

Reference: The Sun Times News (May 8, 2024) “Elder Financial Abuse Can Be A Family Affair”

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