How To Protect Against Elder Abuse

How To Protect Against Elder Abuse

A Senate Special Committee on Aging had a hearing in November of 2016, which allowed experts to testify that elder abuse is still a growing problem in the United States.  The experts testified that over 5 million elders, or one in ten seniors, that live at home experience some elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

Jaye Martin, the executive director of Maine Legal Services for the Elderly, testified that not only is financial abuse (elder abuse) running rampant, but that the elder abuse is most often perpetrated by family members who are guardians.  This information regarding financial elder abuse was further supported by a report issued by the Government Accountability Office.

Family members often choose to become guardians to make informed decisions for the wards when this person is no longer mentally competent.  A guardianship creates a legal relationship between the guardian and the ward, which allows a person to make decisions in their place.  A guardianship signifies to the court and health care providers that he or she has the legal capacity to make important financial and healthcare decisions.

As you might imagine, there is potential for a guardian to abuse his or her powerful position.    While many guardians act in the best interest of the person under guardianship, some guardians abuse their position to financial profit.

There are some great ways to protect yourself from elder abuse.  

One of the best ways is to stay active and engaged with friends, family, and life as possible.  An elder becomes more vulnerable to elder abuse when he or she becomes socially isolated.  Keep active and communicate with your loved ones, because these people may notice abuse that is not readily apparent.

Don’t succumb to pressure.  Do not let any person rush or pressure you into any decisions that you are not comfortable with.  This is especially true is someone wishes for you to sign a document, purchase something, or give away assets.

Look out for joint accounts.  Joints accounts are sometimes not the best option for planning for incapacity.  Both parties to a joint account are equal owners, which means that each has equal access to the account.  A bank will let one of the joint owners completely withdrawal all of the account’s assets without the approval of the other joint owner.  This is one reason we recommend other estate planning tools, such as a living trust, to plan for a person’s needs during incapacity.

Involve a professional team in your affairs.  The Jacksonville estate planning attorneys cannot stress this advice enough.  The most important thing an elder can do to prevent elder abuse is to hire multiple financial and legal parties to help them manage their finances.  Attorneys and financial advisors are under a duty to help their clients and act in the client’s best interest.  A third party can provide an additional layer of oversight and can provide the necessary checks and balances to identify potential problems before they occur.

An estate planning attorney can offer services such as a revocable or irrevocable “living” trust to manage your finances.  This lets a person called a trustee manage your finances and lets this person make the hard decisions.  Further, any property in a living trust avoids probate, which means that family members and loved ones can receive their inheritances without having to go through the lengthy probate process.

For more information on how to prevent elder abuse contact the Jacksonville estate planning attorney at The Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC today.

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