Sadly, it is all too common that elderly persons fall victim to abuse. Whether it is physical, emotional, or financial abuse, the vulnerability of older individuals makes them easy targets for such ill-treatment. Financial abuse is a difficult type of abuse to recognize and can be easily overlooked because there are not always blatant signs of it.
Financial abuse of an elder is defined as the illegal or improper use of a senior’s money, property, or assets. This week, The Buffalo News wrote a story about an elderly woman who fell victim to this kind of abuse by her own granddaughter.
To make sure someone you know isn’t falling victim to financial abuse, look for these signs:
- Sudden changes in handling money. If you notice that an elderly person is making frequent withdrawals, withdrawing large sums of money, or placing additional names on a bank account, this may be a sign that they are being exploited.
- Radical and sudden changes in Last Will and Testament or other estate planning documents. If family members or someone close to the elderly individual are attempting to steal funds or increase their inheritance, a change to the person’s Will or Power of Attorney might occur to secure changes in writing.
- If an elder is receiving insufficient care. If an individual has the financial capability to receive adequate care, but is not receiving proper care, this may be a sign of abuse and isolation.
If you believe a person is being victimized, there are a few steps you can take. First, privately sit down with the individual you feel is being abused to find out what his or her desires are and what may be in their best interest. Loneliness can put an elderly person at risk for abuse and undue influence because they long for companionship. This may cause an elderly person to entrust with people that aren’t known very well by them. Being an active support can be a helpful beginning. If you suspect that financial abuse is happening, you can contact Adult Protective Services or local law enforcement. A meeting with an attorney who is experienced in the field of Elder Law is an extremely important step in ensuring the proper handling of an elder abuse situation.
It is important to make sure assets are protected by having estate planning documents put into place. At HoganWillig, our talented and passionate Elder Law/Estates Department can help guide families and loved ones to prepare for and take steps to protect an elder’s future.