One of the most serious problems confronting our growing elderly population is the risk of elder financial abuse. Elder financial abuse is defined as the use of unfair or deceptive practices that financially exploit and rob the elderly of the money that they spent their whole lives saving. In fact, it is already a widespread problem affecting people across the country. According to Consumer Reports, only 1 in 44 acts of abuse is ever reported, and the rate of elder abuse continues to grow.
Who Commits Elderly Financial Abuse?
One of the scariest things about this crime is that it can be perpetrated by almost anyone who is in direct contact with the victim. Most frequently, this abuse is committed by close friends and family, but caregivers and other helpers also have the ability to steal from their elderly patients. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, elderly financial abuse can be committed by:
- Bank employees
- Medical professionals
How Can You Prevent It?
The financial exploitation of the elderly is a serious problem, but fortunately there are steps you can take to make sure that you do not become a victim. Firstly, you should make sure you have trustworthy professionals who will help you manage your estate. CPAs and certified financial planners can help you manage your retirement accounts, but you also want to hire a reliable estate planning attorney such as one of the many at Clear Counsel. A good estate planning attorney will help you write power of attorney documents, as well as will documents. With their help, you can also establish trusts and structure them so that your relatives’ access to the money is controlled or limited.
When your attorney is helping you craft your power of attorney, you want to give a lot of thought to who you should give that power. That person is legally obligated to act in your best interests, but with the power of attorney, he or she will have the ability to manage your money without your supervision. That is why it is critically important that you assign power of attorney to a family member who is very trustworthy. Consumer Reports recommends that you give that power to a family member who is financially secure and more detached from you instead of the family members who are closest to you. That may reduce the risk of abuse, but it always depends on the situation. It is also possible to assign a separate relative or friend to monitor the person who has power of attorney and that will give you greater protection and control over the situation.
It is also a good idea to set up most of your recurring payments as direct deposit. Payments such as those that come from pensions, Social Security, and tax refunds should go directly to your bank account. That will reduce the risk that someone close to you, such as a caregiver, will have access to your money. Finally, you can work with your bank so that recurring payments such as mortgage payments and utility bills are paid out automatically from your account. This will further reduce the risk that someone close you can exploit you financially.
Call the experienced staff at Clear Counsel today to set up a consultation about your legal rights and set up the documents that will help to protect you from elder financial abuse.