More than any other age group, elderly are most at risk of financial abuse and the theft of property and assets. Due to changing technology and new financial products, the elderly are less knowledgeable about finances than other age groups and are prone to poor decision making. Elderly people who suffer from dementia and other cognitive diseases are even more at risk of making poor decisions about property and finances.
Many elderly individuals have acquired large savings accounts and assets over their lifetime and are therefor easy targets. In the U.S. 70% of the wealth is owned by people over 50 years of age. Investment brokers, annuity salesmen, and scam artists all know that many elderly individuals have substantial savings and will try to take advantage of that.
Finally, elderly are at high risk for financial abuse because they are more likely to suffer from physical injuries and illnesses. When an elderly person is dependent on others to take care of themselves, they become more vulnerable to abuse and have more difficulty refusing caregivers who want money or assets. For all these reasons, many of the elderly are at risk of losing their property and assets or having them misused by others. By having legal arrangements already in place, an elderly person can safeguard their assets.
Those who commit financial abuse use a variety of methods to get control of an elderly person’s assets. They may use coercion, deception, and intimidation to get elderly people to comply, or sometimes they just use their relationship with the elderly person to get access.
The people who commit the abuse may convince elderly people to transfer savings and assets to them, sign away power of attorney, give them cash, give them the ATM card, buy them gifts and unnecessary items, and lend money under false pretenses. Individuals may also persuade the elderly to make bad investments, or they learn how to forge the elderly person’s signature.
There are a few different reasons why family members may take advantage of their elderly relatives. Some family members who take care of the elderly feel like they are entitled to some sort of payment. They may also believe that they will receive these assets in the will, so they already feel like they own the assets. If family members are unemployed, have financial problems, or suffer from drug addiction, they are more likely to financially abuse the elderly.
If family members are already providing and caring for an elderly person, it becomes more likely that financial abuse will occur. Family members may become stressed and resentful of the dependent relationship, and the elderly person may also start to feel guilty for being sick, frail, or in need of constant help. At this point, there is a higher risk that the family member will try to misuse the elderly person’s savings and assets, and the elderly person may not stop them.
Before an elderly person becomes dependent on family, very ill, or affected by dementia or cognitive decline, he should contact an attorney and have a will and other rights drawn up. This will keep the assets protected, no matter what happens, and can also put them out of reach of those who would commit financial abuse. One option is to give multiple family members equal control of the assets. By doing this, even if one family member attempts to misuse them, the other ones can stop him.
“Elder Financial Exploitation.” National Adult Protective Services Association. National Adult Protective Services Association, n.d. Web. 23 Feb 2014. <http://www.napsa-now.org/policy-advocacy/world-elder-abuse-awareness-day/>.
“The 2013 Florida Statutes.” Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature, 23 Feb 2014. Web. 23 Feb 2014. <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0800-0899/0825/Sections/0825.103.html>.
“Types of Abuse.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 23 Feb 2014. <http://ncea.aoa.gov/FAQ/Type_Abuse/