With difficult economic times, we also experience an unfortunate increase in elder abuse. Financial exploitation takes many forms. Those include taking money or property, forging an older person’s signature and getting an older person to sign a deed or will through deception or coercion.
Family members can be undetected predators. Most cases of financial exploitation involve family members. Usually it’s someone who is dependent on Mom and Dad. They need that big pot of money. They’re unemployable, or didn’t try to work, or have substance abuse problems. They end up isolating Mom and Dad. The other kids are not sure what’s going on. It’s easy to transfer the house to their name or take out mortgages on the house. They might use some of the money for Mom and Dad, but they use some for themselves, too. Increased longevity is contributing to the problem. Children with a sense of entitlement grow increasingly impatient awaiting their inheritance. Michigan has an elder abuse hotline: 1-855-444-3911. Signs of potential financial exploitation can include unpaid bills, withdrawals from bank accounts and transfers that the older person cannot explain. Sometimes a predator becomes the new “best friend,” getting access to funds and bank accounts. Anyone can call the hotline and report the abuse. If you suspect an elder you know is being abused please call. An investigator will be assigned to look into the situation.
Pay attention to estate planning. To guard against such problems, legal and financial advisers suggest taking care of estate planning early. Picking who you know and trust as health care agent and durable power of attorney is very important. Do it while you have the mental capacity to make the best possible decision for yourself. If possible, let other people know about it. If putting adult children in charge is problematic, consider hiring a third party — an attorney, a CPA — who is not emotionally attached. By planning early and letting everyone know what the plan is there is less chance that the senior will be taken advantage of in the future.
Some safety tips for seniors:
- Arrange for direct deposit of Social Security checks and other retirement benefits.
- Do not give anyone access to your ATM cards or passwords.
- Take great care in choosing someone to appoint as power of attorney and in completing or revising a will.
- Be careful about permitting family, friends or tenants to live in your house. Have a written agreement about expectations of services to be performed or rent paid.
- Treat home attendants like employees, not friends.
- Keep valuables hidden if someone comes into the house on a regular basis.
- Maintain contact with family, friends, neighbors and/or your community center. The more active you are, the less likely you are to be exploited.
If you need help establishing your estate plan, call our office for an appointment at 888-829-0894.