How to Prevent Financial Elder Abuse

High-profile charges of financial exploitation raise troubling questions. Here’s how to protect yourself and your family.

Stories of two high-profile elderly Americans have shone a harsh light on the issue of financial elder abuse. However, the rich and famous are not the only ones who are vulnerable. All families need to know what they can do to protect their loved ones, says AARP in the article “7 Ways to Prevent Financial Elder Abuse.”

Stan Lee is a legend, and not just among comic book fans. The 95-year old creator of Spider-Man and many other superheroes has been enmeshed in a legal tangle that includes charges that a memorabilia collector is attempting to isolate Lee in order to gain control of his fortune, which is estimated at $50 million. A Los Angeles court has issued a temporary restraining order against the collector, who says the charges are false. 

An American hero, Buzz Aldrin, is battling with his two younger children, accusing them of trying to get control of his estate by saying he has dementia. He sued his own children in court. They deny doing anything wrong and say his memory loss and increasing confusion is to blame.

Experts believe these kinds of cases will grow as America ages and will continue to remain largely unreported, because most families don’t want to report or prosecute these crimes. Ninety percent of the perpetrators are family members or other people the victim knows well, including caretakers and neighbors. As we get older, we’re not as savvy about finances and sharp operators take advantage of this.

Here’s how you can protect yourself and your aging family members:

  • Before anything happens, make a plan that includes power of attorney and heath care directives.
  • Stay connected with loved ones through regular visits or phone calls. Video chatting is also good.
  • Develop a relationship with your parent’s caregiver. Make sure that she knows you are involved.
  • Become a “trusted contact” and monitor banking and investment activities.
  • Sign up for a service that tracks financial activity and notifies you of any unusual withdrawals or changes in spending habits.
  • Set up direct deposit for checks that arrive regularly, so they won’t have to cash them or ask someone else to cash them.
  • Don’t sign any document that you don’t understand and don’t be rushed into signing anything.

Having to keep your guard up to protect yourself or a family member, is not how we like to think of our golden years. However, unfortunately it is necessary.

Speak with an estate planning attorney to create an estate plan, including a last will and testament, so your assets or those of your family member are also protected.

Reference: AARP Bulletin (Sep. 2018) “7 Ways to Prevent Financial Elder Abuse”

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