The financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is now estimated to be at least $2.6 billion every year. While there are no definitive statistics on exactly how many older adults are financially exploited, most experts agree that those reported incidents are merely a small percentage of the actual number of exploitation cases. But according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, approximately 60% of all substantiated cases of elder abuse investigated by Adult Protective Services involve a family member exploiting their elderly relatives. This means that a family member is more likely to financially exploit their elderly relatives than a perfect stranger.
In 2008, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging published a “case example” that is far too familiar for those that deal in elder exploitation cases. An elderly woman (“Helen”) executed a Durable Power of Attorney naming her daughter (“Susan”) as her agent. Susan sells Helen’s home and puts the funds in Helen’s bank account. But within a year, Susan had used the Power of Attorney to withdraw all of her money to support her lavish lifestyle. Helen discovers the lost money and attempts to get the local district attorney to investigate, but they cannot. Adult Protective Services likewise doesn’t have the resources to investigate. But perhaps most alarming, Helen is now denied for Medicaid eligibility.
It is not understood what factors lead to family members exploiting their elderly relatives. Some family members perhaps feel a sense of entitlement and believe they have a right to their parent’s money or feel justified in taking an “advance” to their future inheritance. In some cases we have handled, the exploiting family member believes they are being “reimbursed” for providing care. No matter the reasons and factors, financial abuse is prevalent and thankfully becoming a more commonly cited issue in America.
The elder law attorneys of Martinson & Beason, P.C. deal regularly in the issue of elder exploitation and have successfully recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for their elderly clients and helped them regain Medicaid eligibility. A well-thought estate plan can also assist in avoiding the potential risks one has with executing a power of attorney or appointing someone your trustee. If you have any questions regarding these issues, contact the attorneys of Martinson & Beason, P.C.