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Elder Financial Abuse: How Butcher Elder Law Can Help

Jun 12, 2024 | Firm News

Elder financial abuse is a significant issue affecting many older adults nationwide. It involves someone exploiting or misusing an older person’s finances or assets for personal gain. Often, the perpetrator is in a position of trust, be it a family member, abusive partner, or paid caregiver.

Recovering from elder financial abuse, both financially and emotionally, can be challenging. However, there are several strategies and resources available to help these victims.

Types of Elder Financial Fraud

Sadly, there are seemingly limitless financial fraud schemes that affect older Americans. The impact of financial abuse is enormous. One 2023 AARP report found that adults over age 60 lose more than $28 billion a year through all types of abusive financial acts.

Tech support scams are one of the most often reported. However, confidence fraud and romance scams cost elderly victims the most money. (In confidence fraud, someone befriends a senior and gains their confidence. They then abuse their relationship by getting access to their money and assets.)

Other forms of financial abuse of seniors include the following:

  • Business email and email account compromise
  • Investment
  • Personal data breach
  • Real estate or rental
  • Government impersonation
  • Identity theft
  • Sweepstakes, lottery, and inheritance scams
  • Non-payment or non-delivery
  • Credit card fraud and advanced fee

First Steps Against Elder Financial Abuse

If you suspect an older person is the victim of financial abuse, report it immediately to the appropriate authorities.

You can begin by contacting your local Adult Protective Services agency (APS) or law enforcement to file a report. The sooner you make a report, the sooner an investigation into the situation can occur. Of utmost importance is taking actions to protect the victim and prevent further abuse. With these services, you can assess the scope of the financial abuse and identify the extent of financial losses.

Secondly, establish a support network for the victim. Surround the older individual with supportive family members, friends, and professionals who can provide emotional support. The victim will need other types of guidance throughout recovery. This network of professionals may include attorneys, financial advisors, therapists, and social workers.

In many cases, the perpetrator of the abuse is a trusted family member or professional caretaker. Remove them immediately from contact with the victim. They also should no longer have access to any accounts that would allow them to further the financial abuse. Where possible, appoint an interim individual to provide financial oversight and protection.

How an Elder Law Attorney Can Aid in the Recovery Process

An elder law attorney can be crucial in helping with elder financial abuse and recovery. Professionals in this field understand the laws and regulations surrounding elder abuse and financial exploitation. They can provide personalized advice related to your specific circumstances. In addition, they can explain your legal rights and options available to rectify the situation.

Documentation, Evidence, and Complaint Filing

Gathering and organizing the necessary documentation and evidence to support a case of financial abuse can be complex. Collecting bank statements, financial records, contracts, and other relevant documents will be necessary to build a compelling case. A formal complaint is more in-depth than the initial reporting of elder financial abuse.

Working with APS and law enforcement, an elder law attorney can provide the necessary documents for an investigation. They will be able to file your formal complaint correctly and promptly as well.

Continuing Contact and Asset Recovery

As a go-between, an attorney can maintain contact with you, the victim, law enforcement, or adult protective services. Ensuring the investigation moves forward and protecting the rights and interests of the older person are paramount. An attorney can communicate on the victim’s behalf with the appropriate agencies to do this.

An elder law attorney can work with financial institutions and other authorities to recover any misused or stolen assets. They may also file lawsuits against the abuser or explore other legal remedies to recover the stolen funds.

Financial Recovery Plan and Credit Reporting Agencies

Notifying major credit reporting agencies like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion about a case of elder financial abuse is crucial. It can help protect the victim’s credit and prevent further financial abuse via fraud alerts. These agencies also can institute a credit freeze. This blocks abusers from opening new accounts or accessing credit in the victim’s name.

Work with an elder law attorney to develop a plan for rebuilding the victim’s finances. A recovery plan may involve changing an existing budget or managing debt. It also may involve exploring new investment strategies to recover lost assets over time. An attorney can also help identify new financial persons to replace previously abusive financial advisors and create legal documents to appoint these individuals.

Protection Orders and Injunctions

In some cases, the abuser continues to have access to the older individual or their assets. An elder law attorney can help obtain protection orders or injunctions to prevent further harm. These legal measures can prohibit the abuser from contacting or approaching the older person and safeguard their financial resources.

Mediation and Settlement Negotiations

In some cases, resolving financial abuse disputes through mediation or settlement negotiations may be possible. Some perpetrators of financial abuse will remain unreachable for restitution. But in most cases, a person well known to the victim commits the elder financial crime. Mediation, settlements, and even civil or criminal litigation may be appropriate avenues to pursue.

Estate Planning and Asset Protection

An elder law attorney can develop comprehensive estate plans that protect the older person’s assets during their lifetime. They also can provide for their future needs through various legal tools, such as trusts and powers of attorney. This way, the older individual can safeguard their finances and ensure their loved ones honor their wishes.

A financial guardian or conservator may be appropriate when older adults can’t manage their financial affairs on their own. An elder law attorney can help establish legal guardianship. In a guardianship, a trusted individual or institution manages the senior’s finances and makes decisions on their behalf.

Education and Prevention

Restitution after a financial abuse scheme is, of course, desirable. But just as important is preventing elder financial abuse from ever happening again through education and preventative measures. An elder law attorney can explain legal rights, common scams, and warning signs of financial exploitation. They can help older adults make informed financial decisions and provide the legal framework to achieve their goals.

Elder Law Attorneys

Butcher Elder Law provides legal expertise and support in addressing elder financial abuse. Involving these experts in the recovery process increases the chances of a successful outcome.

If you suspect someone you love is experiencing elder financial abuse, contact an elder law attorney. They can serve as part of a team that will help them recover emotionally and financially. Abusive situations involving seniors extend beyond economic abuse and can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Consult the appropriate authorities as soon as possible if you believe someone is being victimized.

Call us at (440) 268-8284 or contact us to learn more about how we can help.