Protecting The Elderly From Financial Exploitation And Health Care Costs
As our society ages and improved health care extends lives, many elderly residents are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their financial needs on fixed incomes and life savings. Any unexpected financial loss can have a significant impact on their living arrangements, medical care and overall well-being. Elder financial exploitation touches all of us. We may have aging parents or other relatives who could become victims of financial exploitation. We also may have other family members, colleagues, friends or neighbors who show signs of diminished capacity. All of us could become at risk for financial exploitation as we grow older. Elder financial exploitation is a significant problem now and is expected to become worse with the aging of America. While Florida law imposes criminal and civil remedies against these wrongdoers, recovering the elderly person’s assets from the perpetrator can be difficult. Wealthy adults with diminished capacity may be at greater risk of being targeted by these perpetrators.
Cognitive decline can begin with disease or other changes in the aging brain even without the presence of any disease. When cognitive decline begins, financial impairment is often one of the earliest signs of diminished capacity. Physical decline and dependency are also risk factors for elder financial exploitation. Diminished capacity does not necessarily mean that the elderly person meets the standard of incapacity under guardianship law. There is a gap between when cognitive decline begins and when (or if ever) the elderly person meets the guardianship standard of incapacity. There are (and will be) a large number of the elderly with various degrees of diminished capacity susceptible to financial exploitation who do not qualify for protection under the Florida guardianship law.
The best way to address this cognitive decline and help prevent elderly financial abuse is with an estate plan that contemplates the possibility of diminished capacity and incorporates preventative measures to protect the elderly person from future financial exploitation. The estate plan should be established long before the elderly person is affected by a mental disability. Choosing a trusted family member or professional to manage the financial affairs of the elderly person is essential. Creating a life care plan for the elderly person’s long-term care needs is also an important preventative measure. Annual “checkups” with the estate planning attorney can help to identify potential problems and potential threats.
In response to the problems associated with diminished capacity and financial exploitation, we have created provisions within our estate planning documents to help protect against undue influence and financial exploitation. Our firm can set up a strong support structure and devise methods to help protect the elderly from financial exploitation and undue influence by others.
Medical and nursing home care also can have a significant impact upon the life savings of the elderly. We can take measures to address the impact that medical and nursing home care can have on the life savings of the elderly. Through proper Medicaid planning, our firm can help preserve the assets of our elderly clients for their future personal and medical care, living expenses and other purposes, or as a legacy for surviving loved ones.
At Lyons, Beaudry & Harrison, we provide comprehensive guidance to help the elderly person and their families avoid financial exploitation and preserve assets for future expenses or as a legacy for surviving loved ones.
Combatting The Financial Exploitation Of The Elderly
The best way to combat financial exploitation is through estate planning and creating a support structure such as a life care plan well before the start of any cognitive decline.
Social isolation breeds financial exploitation. Keep in touch with your loved ones.
Many times, financial predators are in a position of trust, like a neighbor, friend, caregiver or a previously uninvolved family member. There are a number of “red flags” that could suggest the presence of elder abuse or financial exploitation, including:
- Isolation of the elderly adult especially by a caregiver, neighbor, friend or relative
- The addition of a person to a financial account of the elderly person
- Cash withdrawals from the elderly person’s bank account, including ATM card withdrawals
- Transfers of real estate or other assets of the elderly to a family member or others without consideration, particularly if the transfer document was prepared by someone other than the long-term attorney of the elderly person
- The making of gifts (or loans) which are inconsistent with the prior gifting patterns of the elderly person
- The overpayment for services rendered, particularly to a caregiver or family member providing care to the elderly person
- The recent execution of a durable power of attorney or trust, particularly if the document was prepared by someone other than the long-term attorney of the elderly person
- The purchase of goods and/or services without reasonably equivalent financial value
- The income and assets of the elderly person are not being used to pay the bills or provide for the elderly person’s necessities.
- Actions are being taken that are contrary to the elderly person’s sole benefit or best interest
- Significant changes in spending patterns of and increased credit card charges by the elderly person.
Any person who suspects or witnesses the abuse or financial exploitation of an elderly person should report the abuse or financial exploitation to the Florida Adult Protective Services. Even if you only suspect that you or someone you love has been victimized in this way, it is important to seek immediate assistance from a qualified attorney. Do not wait until it is too late, get in touch with our law firm today if you are concerned that an elderly person in your life is being financially exploited. Our firm has been assisting clients with these types of matters for decades, and we are prepared to walk you through each phase of the legal process to help restore the elderly person’s financial security or pursue justice.
Let Us Help Protect You And Your Loved Ones
At Lyons, Beaudry & Harrison, we advise clients as to the issues associated with diminished capacity and financial exploitation and have created provisions within our estate planning documents to help protect against undue influence and financial exploitation and recommend the development of a life care plan. We also consult with family members and others with concerns that an elderly person in their lives is being financially exploited or abused.