Elder financial abuse is a form of exploitation against seniors and older persons that may include, but is not limited to, taking money, property or assets. Older adults who suffer from physical or mental disabilities, such as dementia, or experience feelings of isolation, loneliness or loss may be more susceptible to elder financial abuse. According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, some seniors may accumulate significant assets over time and may underestimate their value. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates over 500,000 elderly Americans suffer from financial abuse annually.
According to the NCPA, elder financial abuse may be perpetrated through means of theft, fraud (such as identity theft), unauthorized investments, invalid or unauthorized changes to the estate and other scams. Some will sway an older person into purchasing overpriced services and products or partaking in unfair business practices through means of manipulation and deception.
Those who commit elder financial abuse are oftentimes those closest to the senior, such as caregivers, family members, friends and acquaintances. A study by The National Center on Elder Abuse revealed that, in 90 percent of cases of abuse and neglect against older persons, the abuse came from family members or trusted others. The abuser will often play to the elder’s emotions through guilt, deception or flattery to gain trust. In some instances, the senior may feel responsible for the financial well-being of their adult children and loved ones who lean on them for economic support.
As mentioned in a previous article, establishing a durable power of attorney can ensure that a senior’s wishes for their assets are met. A power of attorney is a legal document in which a senior or “principal” can designate a trusted family member, domestic partner or friend as an “agent” to pay the bills and manage the property and assets when they are no longer able to do so. A power of attorney can go into effect immediately, or can be “springing” and only become operative should the individual become physically or mentally incapacitated.
The establishment of trusts can also serve as a means of asset protection for seniors. A trust is a legal contract between the grantor (the individual who sets up the trust and puts assets into it) and the trustee (the person who manages the trust for the designated beneficiary) who will receive the assets. The terms of a trust may limit what assets may be distributed and the circumstances under which the distribution can occur.
Consulting an experienced New York estate planning lawyer can be crucial in establishing a durable power of attorney or trust that will serve your best interest and protect your assets. The attorneys at Blodnick, Fazio & Associates are skilled in handling all aspects of estate planning and represents its clients with diligence and compassion. For a free consultation, call (516) 280-7105.