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The elderly are particularly vulnerable to fraud and financial abuse. This is due in part to differing degrees of cognitive decline, feelings of loneliness, and the rapid rate of technological progress in our world. For seniors, who may be experiencing some sense of isolation as they age and become more homebound, not having safeguards in place to protect their assets could spell financial disaster in their waning years.
You can protect yourself and/or your loved ones by learning how to prevent financial elder abuse.
Financial scams target the elderly
According to the National Adult Protective Service (NAPSA), only 1 in 44 cases of elder fraud or financial abuse is ever reported. And though we all hear stories of telephone scammers bilking seniors out of their life savings, the majority of situations involving elder financial exploitation involve trusted individuals known to them, such as friends or family members.
This oftentimes involves stealing money and other investments by acquiring the senior’s power of attorney. In these types of scams, the so-called trusted person will often claim they only took the money for safekeeping to shield the elder from making bad financial decisions, citing their senility. In the end though, the victim may lose their home, investments, nest egg and any other money or possessions the scammer sees as valuable.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is essentially a legal document that provides written authorization for a designated person to act on legal authority on behalf of another, typically obtained in regards to financial matters such as bank accounts and investments. In the hands of the right person, this power of attorney can act as protection, an important tool for managing elder finances and keeping scammers safely locked out.
In the wrong hands, power of attorney can spell financial ruin for you or your loved ones as this power allows them to take action with the money and investments of the senior, as simply as if it were their own.
Preventing Financial Elder Abuse
Financial abuse of your senior can be prevented, by taking the appropriate steps BEFORE your loved one is unable to handle their financial affairs themselves. Your loved one should have the following documents prepared and in force beforehand:
Power of Attorney: Allows your senior to name a trusted person (while they are of sound mind) to make financial decisions for them while they are no longer able to.
Health Care Power of Attorney and/or Mental Health Power of Attorney: Allows them to name someone to make any medical, psychological, psychiatric and other health-related care decisions once they are incapacitated.
Living Will: Allows the senior to state his or her end-of-life preferences, such as a Do Not Resuscitate Order.
HIPAA Authorization: Authorizes someone of their choosing to interact with healthcare providers and to receive information and records on their behalf.
If you suspect you or a loved one has become a victim of elder financial abuse, contact a law firm well-versed in cases of elder financial exploitation as soon as possible to discuss the situation and any legal steps you may need to take to protect the rights and assets of your loved one. Call the experienced Minnesota attorneys at Meshbesher & Spence now for a FREE consultation.
To learn more about elder financial scams, check out the National Council on Aging’s Top Ten Scams Targeting Seniors
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