This week the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette spotlighted the growing threat of elder financial abuse and its tragic aftermath. The author of the article, Ginny Monk, also referenced my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, for additional background to a problem that is only expanding in scale.
Like California, Arkansas is also experiencing a surge of reported incidents of elder financial abuse. Monk writes that from 2014 to 2016, that state's Adult Protective Services has noted a tripling in exploitation cases. That means that predators continue to take advantage of vulnerable seniors for their own selfish benefit. Some visible instances include isolation and manipulation (undue influence) by caretakers, but by far the most common type of elder financial abuse is committed by those closest to the elder - family members. Why would a son, daughter, or other relative carry out such destructive behavior? The reasons are numerous, from sheer greed to substance dependency or a misplaced belief in one's own righteousness to the exclusion of intended beneficiaries.
Whatever the intentions of an abuser, the results of elder financial exploitation are often heartbreaking. And with the graying of America and, we're bound to witness many more similar stories - especially with conditions of cognitive decline like Alzheimer's and dementia. Thankfully, the rise in recorded incidents, whether in California or Arkansas, may mean that more witnesses are stepping up and speaking out. This could be the result of mandated reporter laws and better efforts to educate the public on a mounting danger to our communities. Whether it's abuse of power of attorney, undue influence, the unlawful misappropriation of trust funds by a trustee, or other misconduct, victims and their families need to fight back with the full weight of the legal system.
Thank you to Ginny Monk at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for her attention and care in exposing the challenge we face with elder financial abuse. Wrongdoers must be held accountable, but many times criminal cases are hard to pin down and prosecute. Under California law, however, victims can file civil action against abusers for the damage they've caused. If you'd like to talk about your California case - we represent trust beneficiaries throughout the state: from Los Angeles and Sacramento to Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Diego. You can call us today at 916-313-3030. At Hackard Law we believe in better, and so should you.