If you have an elderly loved one with Alzheimer's, you'll know how important it is to look after their safety. It's easy to worry. Maybe your parent or grandparent has left the stove on while cooking, unintentionally causing a fire hazard. Maybe they've wandered off in the neighborhood, only to be found and returned hours later by a good Samaritan. In the same way, a senior suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia or Lewy body dementia is especially vulnerable to elder financial abuse.
Cognitive decline in the elderly affects all areas of their life, and that holds true for financial accounts, estates and trusts. There are unscrupulous predators who jump at the chance to take advantage of the elderly, the confused, the lonely. To most of this such wrongdoing is unconscionable, but sociopathic individuals share none of our concern for another's well-being. Some of them are even family members, an unfortunate but all too common reality in many of the cases we litigate.
In order to protect loved ones with Alzheimer's from fraud and abuse, it's necessary to be vigilant against numerous forms of exploitation. Scammers use email, snail mail and the telephone to ensnare victims and commit identity theft and credit card fraud. A supposedly "friendly" neighbor might offer to mow the lawn for $500 a week. And, worst of all, a family member (often a substance abuser) can isolate, threaten or manipulate an elder and then go on to loot their estate or trust. Undue influence is more frequent than you might think.
What can you do to spot and prevent elder financial abuse and keep an elder with Alzheimer's safe? Be a good investigator - ask the right questions.
- Are bills left unpaid or have utilities been shut off due to non-payment?
- Do checks or estate documents have unfamiliar or odd signatures that don't match the elder's?
- Has the elder's will been changed without their full comprehension or approval?
- Did someone sell the elder's home without their approval?
- Has the elder been made to sign other legal documents, like power of attorney or a joint deed to a house, without understanding what they mean?
- Have you noticed valuable items have gone missing in the house? Are there irregularities in bank accounts?
Finding the answers to these questions will bring you closer to stopping any wrongdoing that may be underway. If you encounter evidence of theft, first call local law enforcement. At Hackard Law, we hold estate and trust wrongdoers accountable in civil court to help safeguard elders and their families. We represent beneficiaries in significant cases throughout California, including in Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, Santa Clara and San Diego. If you're looking at a case of Alzheimer's and financial exploitation and want to talk about it, you can call us at 916-313-3030. We'll be glad to see how we can help you.