What is Elder Financial Abuse?

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

Reverse Mortgages: The Potential For Elder Financial Abuse

…the worst possible product for an elder

Reverse mortgages are becoming a high profile example of the many ways in which financial elder abuse can occur. Older spokesmen picked for their trustworthy demeanor appear in endless television commercials that attempt to sell a trusting senior a product that would benefit the mortgage broker greatly, but amounts to the worst possible product for the senior in the later stages in of life.

These reverse mortgage marketers are very adept and skilled in the methods of successful selling to seniors. For example, one well organized group of marketing advisors is telling the sellers of reverse mortgages , “These [senior] consumers understand that simply having a reverse mortgage offer mentioned on the AARP website and through most senior web links is an excellent way to gain trust from your [mortgage] candidates as most of the seniors that would respond to this ad have had some contact or consideration with the AARP”

By associating trustworthy sources with their products, these marketers are pushing their products with a pervasive intensity that is designed to create a need for a reverse mortgage and to break down whatever resistances the seniors may have.

…an elder without a place to live

Incurring the debt of a reverse mortgage may be acceptable as long as the senior can live in that home. If the senior finds that they have to move out of the home into assisted living or a nursing home, the mortgage becomes due. Now, there is the expense of paying the reverse mortgage off, as well incurring the high cost of the assisted living or nursing home care. A situation like this can leave an elder without a place to live.

In 2006, the California state legislature passed SB 1609 which protects seniors from elder financial abuse associated with reverse mortgages. First, it requires that seniors receive financial counseling from a HUD approved counselor before applying for a reverse mortgage. Second, it requires lenders to prepare loan documents in the language in which the reverse mortgage was negotiated. Finally, it prohibits lenders from requiring a borrower to purchase an annuity as a condition of the loan.

DiJulio Law Group