Preventing Or Confronting Financial Elder Abuse

Financial elder abuse occurs when a victim is exploited because of vulnerabilities associated with age such as impaired mental capacity and/or a simple lack of understanding.

It occurs when someone, usually someone close, advises an older person to make unsuitable investments; misrepresents the stability of an investment or profits therefrom; forces the older person to sell personal belongings or property; steals or otherwise misappropriates money, pension checks or possessions; or withholds the older person's money that is needed for daily living. Theft, fraud, forgery, extortion and the wrongful use of a power of attorney are also prevalent forms of financial abuse. Such exploitation often occurs without the victim's knowledge, only to be discovered by a son, daughter or other relative helping the older person.

Financial elder abuse not only subjects the wrongdoer to civil liability, but it is also a crime. It is often done to a senior by someone he/she knows and trusts, either a family member, visitor, social worker, doctor or nurse. It affects thousands of seniors in all cultural, social and income groups. The good news is that state and federal laws relating to financial elder abuse treat the abuse very aggressively and allow for the older person, his or her trust, legal representative or guardian to recover the money lost.

Financial elder abuse can be difficult to discuss and is not often reported because victims are unaware of the problem, afraid of revenge by the abuser, ashamed that they cannot handle the abuse themselves or concerned about being labeled as too demanding or senile.

Further, an older person impacted by financial elder abuse who is suffering from mental impairment or an otherwise fading memory may not even be able to report the crime or describe its details. This is why the involvement of an older person's loved ones is so important to bringing the wrongdoer to justice.

Indications That Financial Abuse May Be Occurring:

  • Not allowing the senior to spend money the way he/she wants
  • Forcing a senior to sell or give away property or sign a power of attorney
  • Malnutrition
  • Belongings are missing
  • Sudden changes in a senior's will
  • Unusual activity in bank accounts such as ATM withdrawals when the person cannot walk or get to the bank, accounts changed from one branch to another, several withdrawals in a short time for large amounts of money, requests for large cash withdrawals inconsistent with the customer's normal banking practices
  • Different or inappropriate people coming to the bank coupled with changes in signature or unusual account activity. A home health aide, housekeeper or another person puts his or her name on the account.
  • An older person becoming isolated from friends and family. When you call the house, you are told he or she is unable to speak to you; matters are handled by a third party who has gained control of the account.
  • A power of attorney or will is drawn up when the elder seems unable to comprehend the financial implication
  • An older person signs papers without knowing what they are or without legal advice.
  • Refusal to spend money on behalf of the elder person, especially on his or her care
  • Numerous unpaid bills such as overdue rent, utilities and taxes
  • Checks bounce when there should be adequate resources.
  • New acquaintances expressing gushy, undying affection
  • Recent change of title to the house in favor of a "friend" when the older person is incapable of understanding the nature of the transaction or an eviction notice arrives when the older person thought he or she owned the house.
  • Canceled checks no longer sent to the older person's house
  • Promises of "lifelong care" in exchange for willing or deeding property/bank accounts to a caregiver
  • An older person is placed in a nursing home below his or her financial means.
  • An older person complains that he or she used to have money, but does not have it anymore.
  • A caregiver is evasive about financial arrangements.
  • An older person is fearful or seems afraid to speak in front of a household member or companion.
  • Someone accompanying an older person seeks to prevent interaction with others.
  • An older person is isolated or in an unhealthy or unsafe environment.
  • Changes in personal hygiene/inappropriate clothing
  • An older person and household member or caregiver give conflicting accounts of an incident, expenditure or financial need.

The attorneys at Slinde Nelson have an in-depth knowledge of the law relating to elder financial abuse and have been involved in cases seeking millions of dollars against real estate brokers, accountants and other parties responsible for abuse. We are sensitive to the emotional toll this type of abuse can have on older people and their families and will work tirelessly to right what has been wronged.

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