All too often, unscrupulous people attempt to take advantage of others. This is especially common with elderly individuals. When this happens, it is known as elder financial abuse, and it can have a significant negative effect on your estate. Recently, USA Today reported on this growing problem by discussing testimony from a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging. Below are important steps that you can take to protect yourself and your assets.
- Understand Risk Factors
When elderly people face cognitive impairment, this increases the risk that they will be taken advantage of. Additional risk factors include individuals that attempt to isolate an elderly person from their family, friends, or community. Doing so can put an elderly person at increased risk for elder financial abuse.
- Pay Attention
In addition to understanding and identifying risk factors, be on the lookout for other red flags that could indicate elder financial abuse like unusually high guardianship fees or increased expenses that don’t necessarily add up. Increased amounts spent on shopping, dining out, and other purchases may be an indicator that elder financial abuse is taking place.
- Beware of Family Members
Money can make people do strange things, not the least of which is take advantage of an elderly family member for personal financial gain. While many family members have a legitimate interest in an elderly family member, others may take such an interest for the wrong reasons. Large numbers of elderly people are taken financial advantage of by individuals close to them, including family members and personal caregivers.
- Employ Protective Measures
Recognizing various risk factors may help you identify the potential for elder financial abuse. The potential for that abuse may lead you to seek legal protections for an elder in danger of it, such as a guardianship. Basically, a guardianship is a legal relationship where state courts give a person the authority to make certain legal decisions and elderly individual might not be able to make on their own.
- Utilize Experts
Financial planners and attorneys involved in estate planning or other legal aspects of an elderly family’s member can be very helpful in preventing elder financial abuse. Bookkeepers that handle accounting responsibilities for an elderly family member can be among the first to notice spending irregularities, and attorneys that work with elderly individuals on estate planning can help prevent changes to that estate plan that may be made for purposes of elder financial abuse.
- Consider a Durable Power of Attorney
Estate planning attorneys can help you execute a durable power of attorney. Essentially, this document allows you to name someone that has the power to act for you if you become mentally unable to act for yourself. This person will often have unrestricted access to things like your finances, so you should be sure it is a close family member or friend that you have known for a long period of time and can trust with access to your assets. This helps safeguard your estate should you not be able to make appropriate choices regarding your assets due to incapacitation. Your estate planning attorney can help you execute a durable power of attorney appropriate for your circumstances.