Recently Michael Hackard joined Pamela D. Wilson, a caregiving expert and advocate for protecting the well-being of seniors. Pamela is the host of The Caring Generation, and we were honored to speak with her about how to counter elder financial abuse and undue influence. Thank you for the great talk, Pamela!
Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, care-giving expert. I am your host. You're listening to the Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults coming to you live from the BBM, Global Network, TuneIn radio in Colorado. Follow me on Facebook at Pamela D. Wilson page where you can watch my daily Facebook Live videos. We're back to talk about financial elder abuse. Joining me is Attorney Michael Hackard, he's a 40-year veteran in the legal field, and his practice is in Sacramento, California. Michael, how are you today? Welcome.
Michael Hackard: Great, great, thanks for having me on, I appreciate it Pamela.
Pamela D. Wilson: My pleasure. So, I have a copy of your book in my hand, it's called The Wolf at the Door, and you are graciously going to give away copies tonight, to listeners. Could you let listeners know how they can get the copy of the book before I start asking you questions?
Michael Hackard: Certainly, I'm happy to send them a copy of the book if they email me at [email protected] And Hackard is spelled H-A-C-K-A-R-D, again, [email protected] and I'm happy to share a book.
Pamela D. Wilson: Perfect, so I'm looking at your book here and I'm on page six. And it talks about undue influence which is persuading an older person to do something that they don't want to do. Can you talk about how that happens?
Michael Hackard: Sure, I'm happy to talk about it. There are more and more studies now, scientific studies as to what undue influence is and how does it come about, and its basic definition means excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person's freewill, and results in inequity because we all are influencers. Just a question of when does it become undue influence? So there are a number of factors, one is if someone lacks capacity to make say a will or a trust, but while they lack capacity, they have a family member, or a neighbor, or caregiver whoever it is, that basically forces them into making a decision or transferring property or creating something that they didn't really want to create.
Basically, undue influence occurs when someone is vulnerable, and we're talking about seniors, so seniors who are vulnerable by illness or disability maybe by greed I see that a fair amount or even their education, some people maybe are not that well-educated and have a difficult time considering what are, some of the concepts, what are some of the concepts involved in making the decision as to a will or a trust. So that's how it happens.
Pamela D. Wilson: And is it usually... So who's the most likely influencer is it a spouse is it an adult child who's doing this influencing?
Michael Hackard: Statistically an adult child.
Pamela D. Wilson: Okay.
Michael Hackard: Caregivers are also up on the list but not nearly time nearly as much as an adult child. And when we're talking about adult children, the high incidence of dependency by the child on the parent, because later, the child... The parent becomes dependent on the child, and you also see a high incidence of substance abuse and alcoholism.
Pamela D. Wilson: It's just such a shame. There's a case in your book where you talk about police misconduct, and a policeman actually taking advantage of somebody. To me that is so shocking. Can you share that story?
Michael Hackard: Sure, I'm happy to do that, and I have some follow-up stories, on it as well. This occurred in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and there was a younger officer, a sergeant in the police department who befriended a 90 basically a 94 year old woman and somehow he convinced her by taking her to casinos, and on trips and other types of things that he loved her and that he wanted to leave his wife and family for her and of course, she said she was in deep love with him, and she changed her will and trust so that at her death he received $2.7 million.
Michael Hackard: And some of the interesting aspects of the case are that she had a neighbor who was also a police officer who had been on the force for over 40 years, and I've actually communicated with that particular gentleman and he was blowing the whistle on the younger officer, but the Portsmouth the police department ignored it, and later fired the older officer, and a court, did set aside the trust, the $2.7 million, the younger officer, and they set that aside because they said that he was acting upon her fears and hopes.
Michael Hackard: And the older officer, who had been terminated, because of his whistleblowing received a settlement from the city of 300 and something thousand dollars. So anyway, I wrote about it, and later the media from that area contacted me and then later the older officer, the whistleblower contacted me and told me how much he appreciated that I wrote about it, well he deserved to be written about, he was a hero.
Pamela D. Wilson: Well, and how this is so way to me, but how do people think they can get away with this kind of stuff? I just, it blows me away.
Michael Hackard: I know it is surprising, it's surprising that people think that they can get away with it and you see, of course, I feel like I'm an emergency room doctor. I see all of the bad things, all of the accidents or the intentional acts, but then I see them all the time. But I think people just... Maybe it's greed, or maybe they think that through secrecy or through maybe after they get the money going on to another state that they're going get away with it, and unfortunately, they do get away with it for a fairly high percentage of time.
Pamela D. Wilson: That was going to be my question. If somebody doesn't step up, like this other police officer, if somebody doesn't raise a question how many of these just go through and this, I'll call it a perpetrator gets all the money?
Michael Hackard: Well I do I think they get away with a large number. We keep track of our calls, new calls from people per week, and they range anywhere from 30 to 35 new calls per week. And the people, not all of them are about financial abuse cases, but most of the time that people have been somehow frozen, out of a will or a trust and one of the initial impediments is just being able to get a lawyer to do the case because lawyers either have to be paid by the hour, or on the contingency and that's a hurdle for people. They've been frozen out, they've been cut off and they oftentimes simply don't have the money to chase the wrong-doer.
Pamela D. Wilson: Okay, and we've going head out to a break. We're going come back and continue to talk to Attorney Michael Hackard. He will give his email again after the break if you are interested in getting a copy of his book, The Wolf at the Door. You're listening to The Caring Generation radio program. We will be right back.
Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert I'm your host. You're listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, TuneIn Radio on the BBM page. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to laugh, to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving and everything in between. We are continuing our conversation with estate trust and probate attorney, Michael Hackard from Sacramento, California. He is giving away copies of his book, The Wolf at the Door. Michael, could you give out your email address again before we start chatting?
Michael Hackard: Yes, my email address is [email protected], and that is spelled H-A-C-K-A-R-D. And I'm happy to do that and to share it.
Pamela D. Wilson: Great, thank you so much. So I want to talk about how financial abuse happens so that our listeners can maybe become a little more sensitive about what they should watch out for. And your book talks about all these different ways. So can you just maybe start talking about if someone was going to be financially abused, what's the common way that this happens?
Michael Hackard: A common way that it happens is first of all, the taking of personal property from the home. So you may notice some things from, say in a relative's home or a friend's home that are gone. The other prime indicator is the isolation of that elder. And they get... And surveillance, I would add that one, too. But we'll start with the isolation, is that you're making every effort to, say reach a parent. And if there is a caregiver or another family member who answers the phone, they say that they're not available. They might even show up at the door, they may say, "Well, they're sleeping, you can't see them." And sometimes, phone numbers are changed, telephone calls go unanswered, mail goes unanswered. Isolation is a very, very much a telltale sign. And then, what I see more and more is we'll call it parent-napping and that's where a mother or a father who's probably cognitively impaired is taken by a relative away from wherever they were. At the same time that that occurs, there are people that are doing that to actually protect their parent against someone else's wrongdoing, so you just have to look at it closely.
Pamela D. Wilson: And so, in that situation, let's say a daughter's trying to go see dad, and the phone calls are not answered, or it's always, "Dad is sleeping," what does the daughter do? Should she contact an attorney?
Michael Hackard: Well, if you can contact Adult Protective Services, but I have a caveat on that. That's not their fault, but for the most part, they just do a stop-in and they'll ask the senior, "Are you okay?" And most of the time, people who are going to say, even if they're not okay, they're going to say they're okay. Some smaller areas, some smaller urban or suburban areas, police departments will actually go check. So you can ask for law enforcement to do a safety check on a senior or a parent. Other times, you have to ask a friend who is in that community, or you yourself if you can, go to the home and find out what's going on. You show up, you're going to know a lot more. And sometimes, you show up and you will be shocked at what's occurring. And oftentimes, you'll find a senior who's confused, who can be easily undue influenced who will respond to the latest entreaties of whoever it is that's talking to them. Like, "Mom, you want to stay here in Denver, don't you?" "Yes." And then the other sibling says, "But mom, I thought you wanted to move to Sacramento?" "Yes, I do." So you have to go through that.
Pamela D. Wilson: I have seen those situations when I was a guardian and a power of attorney, and they're horrible. Talk a little bit about personal property just disappearing, and how family members might notice that.
Michael Hackard: Well, they might ask, "Gee mom, I notice your TV's gone." Or whatever else it is that seems to be fairly valuable around the house. Or, "Your jewelry is missing. What happened to your jewelry?" That I hear about a lot. That certainly is a danger. The other thing is when... It is a danger when people are put on accounts with the senior. Now, at times you simply have to do that. Or a trustee of a trust needs to be on those accounts, but it's really good to have some kind of transparency within the family, if you can, to find out how money is being transferred around accounts, what's being spent and what the accounts are, because just too often you see a lot of money, sometimes it's in the millions, or certainly a lot of time, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are transferred to someone who it shouldn't have been transferred to. Seniors are so vulnerable, that they forget how much they have and they forget what they've done.
Pamela D. Wilson: Well. And would it be a good idea... So let's say dad wanted to put a daughter on the account. Should then there be a conversation in the family saying, "Okay, I'm putting Mary on the account, but all of you get copies of the account statements every month, just to make sure that there's nothing funny going on."
Michael Hackard: When I've seen families do that, it helps to keep peace in the family, because everyone feels like they then have a hand in it, even if it is a sister who's on the account. But when everyone can look at it, that's very helpful.
Pamela D. Wilson: I agree. And I've seen the things that you comment about. A kid takes a loan out from the parents and then they need to qualify for Medicaid, and they can't because the money's gone. It's a sad situation.
Michael Hackard: It is.
Pamela D. Wilson: We have about a minute. Anything else that you would like to share before we head out for our next break?
Michael Hackard: Yeah. Well, I'd just like to share that this is a great thing for people to be looking out, and to try and to protect seniors. I'm part of the baby boomer generation, which is huge, 65 million or so boomers. And this is... We see these incidents occur all the time, among friends, neighbors, family. And so, be on the lookout for it. Be on the look out to help out someone who may not be able to help themselves.
Pamela D. Wilson: Perfect. And would you give your email one more time so that people can email you for a copy of your book.
Michael Hackard: Yes. It's [email protected], and I'll spell Hackard again, H-A-C-K-A-R-D.
Pamela D. Wilson: Perfect. Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. I am Pamela Wilson, your host. Please invite your family, your friends, your co-workers, to join us each week on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network and TuneIn Radio. Helpful information for caregivers and aging adults is on my website at pameladwilson.com. You can click on the, How I help, drop down, where you will find frequently asked questions about caregiver support and information about my online support groups and courses. If you have a suggestion, and you are on the BBM website on The Caring Generation page, do me a favor during this break. Scroll to the bottom of the page, leave me some suggestions for our future programs. You can also post comments and suggestions there. I go back to that page all the time and I am happy to answer and respond to your questions. We are heading out to a break. We'll be right back.