Depriving an elder of money or property is elder abuse
Financial abuse is depriving an elder of money or property, or of control over money or property, by theft, manipulation, undue influence, or fraud. While financial elder abuse can take many forms, the most widespread financial abuses include telemarketing fraud, identity theft, predatory lending and home improvement and estate planning scams.
Who might financially abuse an elder?
Potential financial abusers include: conservators, caregivers, agents acting under durable powers of attorney, trustees, representative payees, financial planners, attorneys, family members and friends.
Signs of elder financial abuse
- Money or personal items missing without an explanation
- A depletion of assets without adequate explanation or records
- A standard of living below the elder’s financial situation
- Undue interest by the caretaker in the elder’s financial situation
- A new “best friend” who suddenly moves in
- Unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities
- Cash withdrawals or transfers between accounts that the elder could not have made
- Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents
- No documentation about financial arrangements
- Names added to the elder’s financial accounts
- Bank statements or other bills no longer coming to the house, when the elder is not known to handle their finances electronically
- Suspicious changes in titles, wills, or other important documents
Remedies for elder financial abuse
The best remedy to prevent elder abuse is by carefully choosing trustworthy people to act as agents, successor trustees or conservators when working with an elder’s finances.You can amend or end a power of attorney or revocable trust if you believe that a person already designated is not acting in an elder’s best interests, you can also demand an accounting.
If there is evidence of mismanagement, the agent also can be required to make restitution to the elder. In California, the reporting person is protected from both criminal and civil liability for reporting abuses. Victims can seek assistance from law enforcement or file a civil lawsuit.
Punitive damages may be imposed if there is evidence of oppression, fraud or malice. If you feel the problem is beyond your control, consider seeking assistance from the state Ombudsman‚ other government agencies‚ or a law firm like ours that focuses on elder financial abuse.
DiJulio Law Group