- Elder Law
With America’s growing elderly population, the prevalence of elder abuse has become astonishingly high. Elder abuse comes in many forms, such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. However, some forms of elder abuse are not as readily apparent. Take financial abuse, for example, which often can occur through legal means, although deceitful in nature.
Understanding Elder Financial Abuse
What is financial abuse? Financial abuse is the fraudulent or unauthorized act or process of an individual, whereby assets or financial resources of an elderly person are used for the monetary benefit or gain to that individual, while depriving the elderly person of access to his or her own assets or financial resources.
Who are the perpetrators? It may come as a surprise that those closest to the elderly often are the ones that are committing financial abuse. For example, family friends, caregivers, neighbors, and even financial advisors have been found to be more likely to commit elder abuse than, say, a random scammer. Nonetheless, the elderly are subject to a multitude of scams, even those perpetrated by strangers.
What does financial abuse look like? Elder abuse often goes unreported due to the confidential relationship the elderly person has with the perpetrator. Family members may take advantage of joint bank accounts shared with the elderly person by using funds without the elderly person’s permission. Friends, family, or neighbors may manipulate the elderly person into adding them into estate planning documents as beneficiaries. Or, the elderly person may receive scam emails or phone calls requesting payment for taxes on the elderly person’s purported winnings from a lottery.
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What are the signs? Oftentimes, perpetrators of elder abuse begin to isolate the elderly person from friends and family to build the relationship needed to execute their scheme. Those closest to the elderly person may become aware of “new friends” who seemingly appear to come out of nowhere but have gained the elderly persons trust and admiration. Further, the elderly person may begin to amend or change previous estate planning in ways that seem out of place with earlier distribution goals.