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Elder Financial Abuse: What it Is and What You Can Do

Elder Financial Abuse What it Is and What You Can Do.jpgJune is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. Elder Abuse is much more widespread than many think, and authorities believe that a shocking number of cases go unreported each year. From physical violence to withholding food and medicine, elder abuse can take on many forms. It can occur across demographics and in almost any setting.

Our seniors deserve the best care we can provide, and so we here at Hackard Law are committed to shedding light on this serious issue. If you suspect that someone you love is the victim of this type of abuse, the experienced Los Angeles elder abuse litigation lawyers at Hackard Law are ready to help. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Elder Financial Abuse

One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial abuse. It's important to note at the outset that financial abuse may not be outright theft. Financial abuse occurs whenever elders are deceived, coerced, or pressured into giving money or control over their finances to someone else. It can be a one-time occurrence or happen over a period of years. The abuser may have only partial control over some of the elder's financial affairs. It can, at times, be part of a sophisticated scheme and be difficult to detect. Common examples of financial elder abuse include the following:

· Changing the terms of a trust or will

· Unauthorized use of a credit card

· "Borrowing" assets without permission

· Forging signatures on checks

Sadly, financial abuse of our elders isn't committed only by dubious Nigerian princes or other phone and email scammers. It is estimated that most instances of financial abuse are committed by the victim's family, often times the person primarily responsible for the victim's day-to-day care.

Risk Factors

There are multiple reasons why the elderly are vulnerable to financial abuse. Obviously, dementia or Alzheimer's can make it easy for someone to be taken advantage of by someone else. However, seniors in full possession of their faculties can still fall victim to financial abuse. Changes in technology can make it difficult for seniors to manage their finances. Maybe the spouse who handled the household finances has passed away. It could be that the senior has transferred all of his or her assets into a complicated trust that he or she doesn't understand. Each of these cases may lead your senior to rely on someone who doesn't have their best interests at heart.

As they age, many seniors struggle with the loss of independence. While this is certainly understandable, many older adults don't want to admit that they can't manage their affairs or aren't as on top of things as they want to believe. These cases are fertile ground for someone to take advantage of them, either without their knowledge or because they relied on someone they shouldn't trust.

Another unfortunate aspect of aging is that senior face increasing isolation. Lonely and alone, it becomes very easy for one person to exert an undue amount of influence. They may lie about other members of the family or their own circumstances in order to coerce the elder into giving him or her money or control. In some cases, these situations lead to changes in the estate documents, cutting other family members out of the will to someone else's unfair benefit.

Red Flags-Spotting Elder Financial Abuse

It can be difficult to know when our elders are being financially abused. Abusers often go to considerable efforts to hide their actions, and the abuse is sometimes not discovered until almost all the money and other assets are gone. Here are some of the common signs that should cause you to suspect that your senior is a victim of financial abuse:

Strange or unexplained financial transactions: large cash transfers, liquidation of investments, the sale of other property

Lack of knowledge about financial affairs: your senior doesn't know or understand what is going on with his or her financial affairs; doesn't receive or can't locate financial statements and other records

Lack of control or delegation of control: your senior has given partial or total control over their financial affairs to someone else, who handles them without input from the senior

Sudden financial difficulties: delinquency notices, collection calls, or suspension of utilities or other services

Sudden out-of-character gifts, donations, or other grants

Common Forms of Elder Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse often follows established patterns, which can be helpful in identifying it. Financial abuse often involves outright theft of money or property, but there are other common forms that people don't often consider. Here are some examples to watch out for:

● Fraudulently obtaining a power of attorney or guardianship

● Forgery of the senior's signature or otherwise misappropriating his or her identity

● Coercion to sign deeds, change wills or other estate documents, or execute other legal documents that they don't understand or are based on misrepresentations

● Depositing pension or social security checks into the abuser's account

The examples above are often committed by an abuser who is close to the senior, either a family member, friend, or caregiver. However, keep in mind that many acts of abuse are committed by complete strangers, typically scams and frauds, often committed over the phone.

What to Do About Financial Abuse

Unfortunately, many people report that they suspected that something inappropriate was happening, but didn't act on their suspicions because they couldn't prove anything. Trust your instincts, and take action before it's too late. If you suspect financial abuse, here are some steps you should take right away:

Get involved: ask questions, ask for copies of records, and talk to your senior.

Contact the authorities: many instances of financial abuse are crimes. The police will be able to help you evaluate your case, and if necessary, help in the investigation.

Speak with an attorney: if you're not sure whether you should go to the police, an attorney can give guidance as to your options and how you should proceed.

Contact Us Today to Speak With a Los Angeles Elder Abuse Attorney

Here at Hackard Law, we take elder abuse cases very seriously and pride ourselves on giving families the best help. We serve clients throughout California. If you suspect that someone you love is a victim of financial abuse, email us or call (916) 313-3030 from Santa Clara or (213) 357-5200 from Los Angeles to schedule your free consultation.

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