California financial elder abuse creates mayhem in families of men and women who have suffered from such abuse. The simple truth is that those who exploit the vulnerabilities of elders must be held accountable. This exploitation is often accomplished through the use of "undue influence." Such influence is not limited to actions by strangers - even (and often) family members exert undue influence on vulnerable elders depriving them of bank accounts, securities, and real estate.
California has over 5,000,000 people age 65 and older. This is a remarkable number as there are only 22 states in the United States with a population of 5,000,000 or more people. Some 28 states have state populations of less than 5,000,000 people. Given the sheer numbers of California seniors it is evident that our state will have more financial elder abuse than any other state in the union.
Our Baby Boomer population is aging - each day 10,000 Boomers turn 65. Age, for a variety of reasons, increases vulnerability. Those who are intent on using emotional, psychological of legal manipulation against an elder can cause financial havoc that imperils not only the financial health of the elder but ultimately his or her life as well.
It's a sad fact that more often than not, it's relatives - those closest to elders - who perpetrate financial scams. So how can ensure your elderly loved ones are protected from this crime?
Here in California, we define elder financial abuse as the "taking" of funds or property from an elder (someone aged 65 and up). Elder financial abuse can include cut-and-dry theft, or it might be more refined and hard-to-detect. According to California law, if an abuser receives property from an elder through a will or trust by way of undue influence, that would qualify as "taking."
One of the most difficult aspects of grappling with financial elder abuse is the phenomenon of undue influence - it's an insidious factor in disputed wills or trusts where wrongdoing is suspected. Unfortunately it's not uncommon for a family member, friend, caregiver, or financial or legal professional to gradually assume ever greater control of a senior citizen's life, including their bank and trust accounts. Such a position can be easily exploited via undue influence by wrongdoers who want to hijack an estate.
Safeguarding our elderly loved ones from undue influence requires communication and vigilance. While it would be wrong to be overly suspicious of everyone's motives, there is a place for questioning why someone might be offering their "help" when it gives off red flags. If a kind neighbor offers to mow the lawn free of charge, that's welcome assistance. If, however, a neighbor suddenly gains control of an elder's bank accounts and isolates them from their family, you've got a case of undue influence on your hands.
We usually notice - many times through our "sixth sense" - when a situation just doesn't seem right and we spot a bad actor's dishonesty as his behavior becomes more manipulative and abusive. In these circumstances don't waste any time: you have to get the elder out of harm's way, removing them from the influence and abusive actions of the wrongdoer, even if you have to call law enforcement and adult protective services. And if you're facing a case of elder financial abuse, you should consider calling an experienced estate attorney who's qualified to handle your case.
You have rights under the law to get an elder abuse restraining order against a suspected abuser. There are other legal options available, as well: conservatorship to bar financial decisions made under undue influence, or appointment of a successor trustee. Even when the situation looks desperate, you can find new ways of stopping abuse with the right legal consultation.
We represent families and elders in financial elder abuse cases. I'm particularly pleased when I get a call on a matter than can be fixed - and fixed quick - like calling a wrongdoer to account and having the elder's money returned without litigation - or a revocation of a power of attorney that has been abused by its holder.
It is great when family members of the victimized elder can act fast. This, of course, is not always the case because the common mark of the wrongdoer is secrecy. The lesson here is a bit like Homeland Security's admonition - "If you see something, say something." When you say something to lawyers like us who practice in prosecuting civil financial elder abuse cases, we work to implement the remedies that fit the needs of the elder. These remedies may include:Lawsuits to recover financial assets, personal property and real property;
- Lawsuits to recover financial assets, personal property and real property;
- Annulments of bogus marriages;
- Restraining orders to restrict contact between perpetrators and victims;
- Conservatorships; and
- Removal of an abusive trustee or revocation of power of attorney.
Elder financial abuse is a significant danger, and not only to our elderly loved ones and neighbors. The simple truth is that exploitation of our seniors ends up destroying entire family fortunes and damaging the communities around us. If you are facing a case of elder financial abuse in California and need help, don't give up. At Hackard Law we work daily to protect our clients and their elderly loved ones from elder financial abuse across California, from Sacramento and Los Angeles to the Bay Area and San Diego. Call us at 916-313-3030 so we can help you today.