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 another relative helping the older person.
Financial elder abuse subjects the wrongdoer to civil liability, and it is also a crime. It is often done to a senior by someone they know 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, their 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
The following observations may be evidence that financial abuse by caregivers, neighbors or family members is occurring.
- Not allowing the senior to spend money the way they want
- Forcing a senior to sell or give away property or sign a power of attorney
- Missing belongings
- 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 their name on the account.
- An older person becoming isolated from friends and family. When you call the house, you are told they are 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 their 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
- A 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 their financial means.
- An older person complains that they used to have money but do 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.
Q & A On Bringing Claims For Elder Abuse
An elder abuse claim is, quite simply, one of the most powerful claims a plaintiff can bring in Oregon courts. Slinde Nelson is one of the only complex litigation firms in Portland that focuses a major part of its practice on bringing claims for victims of elder abuse.
Sometimes, however, there was some form of harm or abuse, but it could not be proven to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that Oregon criminal prosecutions require. As Oregon civil trial lawyers, we at Slinde Nelson are not bound by the higher criminal standard of proof. That means we can help those elderly people and their families that the criminal system was unable to help.
Financial Elder Abuse Is Prominent
An experienced attorney knows that elder abuse is rampant in Oregon and throughout the United States. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, large numbers of elderly people across the United States have experienced some form of financial abuse. However, only a small percent of these instances are ever reported. In Oregon, about 13% of the population is over 65.
How do you know if you or someone you care about has suffered elder abuse? Slinde Nelson can help.
Who is an ‘elderly person’ under Oregon law?
Generally, it is anyone 65 or older.
What is ‘abuse’ of an elder?
Abuse can be physical or financial. Financial abuse generally includes wrongfully taking or threatening to take money or property from an elderly person.
Who can bring legal action for elder abuse?
Either (1) the elderly person, (2) the guardian, conservator or attorney-in-fact for the elderly person, (3) a personal representative of the estate or (4) a trustee may bring legal action.
What can be recovered in an elder abuse claim?
Oregon has made protecting our state’s senior citizens from abuse one of its priorities. Oregon’s elder abuse statute is one of the most powerful in the country. It allows for the recovery of economic damages as well as damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering. Together, under the Oregon statute, those damages are tripled to punish the offender. Victims of elder abuse will also be reimbursed for attorney’s fees expended in bringing the action.