Elder financial abuse in the United States is much more prevalent than we might believe. Unfortunately, it is often unreported or underreported, often due to fear of retaliation. Seniors lose approximately $2.5 billion annually to financial abuse. Recovery of assets lost to financial abuse is not easy to accomplish either because the senior no longer has the means to retain legal assistance or because law enforcement does not have the bandwidth to investigate all cases.
A typical victim of elder financial abuse is a woman over 75 years of age. Often, victims of elder abuse are lonely, depressed, isolated, in need of in-home care, and vulnerable. It likely comes as no surprise that perpetrators of financial abuse of our seniors are family members, “friends”, romantic interests, caregivers, and holders of Powers of Attorney.
Elder financial abuse comes in different forms. Sometimes individuals will gain a senior’s trust for the sole purpose of gaining access to their financial assets for their own use. This is contrasted to those situations in which a senior is a victim of financial abuse because they happen to be in the way of what a predator is seeking. Finally, are those cases which stem from desperation on the part of the perpetrator; perhaps a financially-strapped family member “borrows” money with no intention of returning it and then continues the pattern.
While, just like many other types of abuse, it is impossible to eradicate elder financial abuse, there are measures which you can take to help safeguard your situation. Perhaps a voluntary Conservatorship will provide you with the protection you need, still allowing someone to assist you with financial matters; however, with Probate Court oversight. Also, having a team of advisors on your side (accountant, attorney, financial advisor) will ensure that there are extra sets of eyes on your finances in case you are no longer able to self-monitor your portfolio. Finally, understanding the pros and cons of powers of attorney and putting appropriate people in positions of trust may be helpful.