Financial Elder Abuse in California

Imagine this: Evelyn, a lawyer who volunteers to spend time with elderly people, goes to Heather's nursing home During her trips, Evelyn brings her children along to visit Heather, who suffers from dementia. Evelyn tells Heather that she really ought to change her will because she sees her more often than her son Mark, who has no children. She goes onto say, even if neither Mark nor I had children, I should still be in your will because I am the executor of your estate and because I have children I need the money more than Mark.

With that, Heather agrees to change her will, leaving Evelyn 65 percent.

Heather is a victim of elder financial abuse.

The National Council on Aging estimates about one out of 10 elderly and disabled people become victim to some sort of abuse, including financial abuse. Fortunately, if you suspect you or somebody you care about has become a victim of elder financial abuse, you can get the justice you deserve.

Who Commits Elder Financial Abuse?

Anybody can commit elder financial abuse, including family members, strangers, caretakers, or professional associates. Unfortunately, people whom the elder knows and trusts often commit financial abuse. According to Jayne Martin, the executive director of Maine's Legal Services for the Elderly, 75 percent of financial elder abuse cases her organization handled involved family members as perpetrators.

Sometimes, people in positions of trust or power commit financial elder abuse. Lawyers, financial advisors, accountants, or trustees often have the access required to misappropriate funds or change documents to benefit themselves.

In short, anyone can commit financial elder abuse, and the loved ones of older adults must stay vigilant and not assume that people around elders are doing what's best for them.

What Does Financial Elder Abuse Look Like?

Common examples of financial elder abuse include:

  • Stealing money or property
  • Using possessions or property without consent
  • Forcing or conning an older adult into signing a deed, will, or power of attorney that benefits the perpetrator
  • Forging an older adult's signature on documents or checks
  • Using an older adult's credit card without permission

Signs of Financial Abuse

The loved ones of older adults who may prove susceptible to financial elder abuse must learn the signs of elder abuse and investigate any suspicious situations. Look out for the following:

  • Missing money or property
  • Bank and other financial statements that the person in question no longer receives
  • Sudden changes to wills or trusts
  • A new "friend" who is giving financial advice
  • Disconnected utilities
  • Collection letters
  • Repossession of property
  • Foreclosure proceedings
  • Unpaid bills
  • New investments
  • Eviction notices
  • Unexplained bank or ATM withdrawals
  • Unauthorized transfers
  • Older adults who do not understand their financial situations

These are just some signs of financial elder abuse. If you harbor any suspicions of elder abuse at all, call our office to discuss the matter with a California elder abuse attorney.

What to Do if You Believe Elder Abuse is Occurring

If you suspect financial elder abuse, take action immediately-the longer you wait, the less likely the elder may recover stolen or misappropriated assets.

If you suspect elder abuse, take the following actions:

  • If the abuse took place at a long-term care facility or nursing home, bring the matter to the attention of the facility's administrator
  • Contact local law enforcement
  • Contact Adult Protective Services or your state's analogous agency
  • Call an attorney

What Rights Do California Financial Abuse Victims Have?

Among other actions, victims of financial abuse may:

  • File criminal charges
  • File civil charges to recover lost assets
  • Try to invalidate the will, trust, or other legal instrument used to commit the financial abuse
  • Contact the State Bar of California, American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, police, or California adult protective services, among others, if a lawyer, doctor, or nursing home committed the suspected abuse.

What if I Suspect My Lawyer or Doctor of Elder or Disabled Person Financial Abuse?

Licensed professionals like doctors and lawyers are subject to sanctions from their licensing authorities if they engage in unethical behavior. Special rules apply to doctors and lawyers in regard to financial abuse of elders.

Lawyers. California Rule 4-400 prohibits lawyers or their immediate family members from getting substantial gifts from their clients. A lawyer licensed in California may not induce a client to give a substantial gift via one's will, trust, or otherwise. The law makes an exception when the client is a family member who intended to give the lawyer a gift. If you suspect a lawyer has violated this rule, contact the California Bar.

Medical personnel. Medical personnel must follow similar rules as lawyers. In addition, California law requires physicians who recommend a particular care faculty to a patient to disclose if they or an immediate family member has any pecuniary interest in that facility. If you suspect a doctor has violated this rule, contact the California Board of Medicine.

Call Hackard Law Today to Speak With a California Elder Abuse Attorney

The lawyers at Hackard Law fight to make sure that elderly and other disabled victims get the vindication they deserve. You do not have to deal with the consequences of financial abuse alone. Email Hackard Law for an analysis of your case, or call us at (916) 313-3030 from Santa Clara and (213) 357-5200 from Los Angeles. We serve clients everywhere in California, including in the San Francisco Bay area.