June is National Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and at Hackard Law we devote special attention to fighting elder financial abuse. There are safety rules to protect all of us from elder abuse. Should families choose to enforce these rules, they can civilly prosecute perpetrators. Under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, California law provides clear remedies for victims of the abuse, or survivors of the victims, in order to bring wrongdoers to account in civil court.
Wrongdoers include those who physically abuse, neglect, financially exploit, abandon, isolate or abduct elders. Family members can take civil litigation action against financial abusers who take, secrete, appropriate, or retain real or personal property of an elder for wrongful use or with intent to defraud the elder or the elder's estate.
Here's a common scenario that may be familiar to you. There is an elder - a parent, uncle or aunt. The elder is the maker of a longtime will or trust naming people close to the elder as beneficiaries of his or her estate. The elder's longtime named beneficiaries are people who could reasonably be expected to receive a share of the estate. The elder may be a widow or widower; maybe they have children from two marriages or stepchildren.
The elder becomes ill. A family member or unrelated party draws close to the elder. The elder becomes isolated. Other family members cannot speak to the elder without someone else listening in or being present. The elder becomes fearful yet increasingly reliant on the isolator. The elder loses the ability to manage personal financial affairs. Someone else is now writing the checks, changing bank accounts, and managing money. Through undue influence, the elder changes his or her longtime estate plan.
The person who will now benefit from the new will or trust drives the elder to an attorney's office. Secrecy surrounds the new estate plan. The elder is infirm and increasingly isolated. Longtime estate plans are discarded. The elder dies. Family members are frozen out of estate or trust distribution.
At this point the family needs to retain an experienced trust litigation attorney. Hackard Law takes the fight to the wrongdoer - we pursue elder financial abuse lawsuits throughout California, including in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, and Santa Clara. You can contact us at 916-313-3030. We'll be happy to listen to your story and see how best to help you.