ElderLaw News — The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Financial Elder Abuse

Recently, a survey conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse disclosed nearly a 20% increase in the reported incidents of elder abuse over a four year period.

Elder abuse takes many forms and encompasses the physical, psychological, emotional, verbal, sexual, or financial abuse of an older adult.

Financial elder abuse, a growing problem in the United States, is referred to as “adult exploitation” in the Code of Virginia and defined there as “the illegal use of an incapacitated adult or his resources for another’s profit or advantage.” Larceny, embezzlement, forgery, and extortion are examples of acquiring an elderly person’s resources through the use of that person’s mental or physical incapacity. These types of elder abuse are often difficult for family members of the elderly to recognize and prevent because they are usually accomplished by the use of covert, subtle, and deceitful means. The difficulty in recognizing and preventing financial elder abuse is compounded by the fact that in a large number of cases the financial abuse is perpetrated by a trusted family member or caregiver. In fact, it is estimated that there may be at least 5 million elderly victims of financial abuse in this country each year, and that only 1 in 25 incidents of financial abuse against the elderly is reported.

Even though financial elder abuse is difficult to recognize, the following warning signs necessitate further investigation:

-- The unexplained disappearance of funds, valuables, or personal belongings.

-- The presence of an adult child that is financially dependent upon the elderly individual.

-- The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives or friends or an unusual household composition.

-- The sudden transfer of property or savings.

-- Excessive payments for care or services.

-- The elderly individual is often unaware of the amount of his or her income, cannot account for his or her money, or the individual’s financial papers are no longer mailed to his or her home.

-- Depleted bank accounts, returned checks, or the chronic failure to pay bills.

-- Change in the elderly individual’s power of attorney or will.

-- The elderly individual is kept isolated. The isolation can be either physical or social, or it can be isolation from the decision making process.

-- Signatures on checks that do not resemble the elderly individual's signature.

-- The elderly individual reports signing papers and doesn't know what was signed.

The presence of any of these warning signs by itself does not support the conclusion that financial elder abuse has occurred, but it does suggest that the person concerned for the well-being of the potential victim evaluate and investigate the circumstances until the concerned person is satisfied that no financial abuse occurred. If the concerned person is not satisfied with the explanation provided, or is met with resistance while trying to obtain information, then the concerned person should contact an attorney experienced in dealing with elder abuse for assistance in evaluating the situation. The attorney’s advice may include requesting an accounting or contacting the local police or adult protective services, and it may also include seeking judicial relief for breach of fiduciary duties, theft, or fraud.

The attorneys at The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm can assist clients with their estate, financial, insurance, long-term care, veterans' benefits and special needs planning issues.


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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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