Financial abuse of the elderly is a growing
problem. A recent
article in the Baltimore Sun highlights the problem:
exploitation of the elderly can take all forms, and firm figures aren't
available. A 2009 MetLife study estimated that the number of victims nationwide
could be as high as 1 million a year, with losses amounting to at least $2.6
billion annually. Victims tend to be women in their 70s and 80s who are
trusting, cognitively impaired or isolated, the study found. The problem is
only expected to grow, given our aging population and the fact that older
adults control the bulk of wealth in this country, making them a target.
So, how can older adults protect
themselves, especially when studies show that abusers are often family members?
The first step is to meet with a qualified elder law attorney now, while you
are still able to make your own decisions about your future care, and memorialize
those in writing. The Baltimore Sun
article outlines four additional steps:
trustworthy agent for your power of attorney. Avoid anyone with debt
troubles or addictions, and don’t rule out naming more than one agent to act as
control of your assets. Sometimes older adults will add other people’s
names as co-owners of their assets today, in a mis-guided effort to avoid
probate after their death. Realize that when you add someone else’s name as
co-owner of your assets, they have access to your assets TODAY. Even
well-intentioned people can get into a car wreck, or go through a divorce –
making YOUR assets fair-game for those would like compensation!
pressure. If a caregiver or child is pushing you to change your will or
make other financial moves you don’t want to, report the pressure to your other
children, relatives or to your attorney.
agents. Oftentimes the care and stress of caring for an elderly parent
falls disproportionately to one child … who seldom is paid to compensate for
their time and efforts. Compensation may both create a more equitable
situation, and reduce the temptation of the care-giving child to just “help