Lawyers Protecting Your Vulnerable Loved Ones
There are few things as heartbreaking as realizing a loved one is being financially exploited by someone they trust, especially if the abuser is a family member. It can be easy to feel powerless, especially if the elderly loved one being targeted does not fully comprehend what is happening.
If you believe that your loved one may be the victim of financial elder abuse, our firm can help. Our Valencia financial elder abuse litigation lawyers at Kaiden Elder Law Group, PC are prepared to fight for your family and hold abusers accountable. We understand how sensitive and precarious these situations can be. Our team can employ numerous legal strategies to stop the abuse and make the situation right as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Who Commits Financial Elder Abuse?
The unfortunate reality is that, in most cases, an abuser will be an individual close to the exploited elderly loved one. It can even be a member of your family. This can make it challenging to discuss the situation, and many will avoid addressing even obvious abuse for fear of creating discord or upsetting other family members. Abusers of all types will often try to limit their target's contact with other loved ones, which can make it challenging to help elderly victims.
Financial elder abusers are often:
- Family Members. Though difficult to accept, it is unfortunately common for a child, grandchild, spouse, or sibling to take advantage of an elderly loved one. Family dynamics can be especially fraught and complex and can result in many types of abuse going unnoticed or unaddressed for long periods of time.
- Neighbors. If an elderly loved one lives alone, their neighbors may see an opportunity to exploit the loved one, especially if they have some access to the residence.
- Caregivers. A nurse or home care service worker will typically spend a great deal of time alone with an elderly loved one and have complete access to their residence. This can lead to scenarios where a caregiver attempts to inappropriately compel a senior to take certain actions. They may also begin stealing valuable items from the home.
- Scammers. Though one can make new friends at any age, some career scammers will aggressively work to integrate themselves into an elderly loved one's life. They may attempt to isolate the loved one from their family and manipulate them into making certain types of financial decisions.
How Can I Recognize Financial Elder Abuse in California?
Financial elder abuse can take many forms. The state of California defines financial elder abuse as action which results when a person takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both. In other words, any deliberate effort to defraud, manipulate, or take advantage of a senior's financial assets will likely constitute financial elder abuse in the eyes of California law.
Common examples of financial elder abuse include:
- Theft. An abuser may “borrow” items and never return them or outright steal property. Deliberately “buying” an asset at a rate far below its actual value can also constitute theft in these situations.
- Coercion. An abuser may attempt to force an elder to provide money or certain assets through violent means. Even threats of violence or the withholding of essential care constitute abusive conduct. Abusers can also attempt to coerce a senior to include them in their estate planning documents or list them as a beneficiary for their life insurance policy.
- Continuous Demands. Trusted individuals in a senior's circles may attempt to exploit the elder's generosity and limited mental capacity by frequently asking for money or other assets.
- Investment Schemes and Internet Scams. Many scammers specifically target the elderly in person and online. These abusers will work to convince seniors that they are offering an excellent investment opportunity or need their sensitive financial information for one reason or another.
- Joint Account Abuse. Some seniors will create joint accounts with one or more of their family members. An abusive family member can potentially exploit this arrangement and make significant financial decisions, including emptying the account, without consulting the elderly account holder.
- Mismanagement of Financial Affairs. Many seniors appoint an agent under a durable power of attorney to manage some or all of their financial affairs. That agent has a legal fiduciary duty to act in the best interests or his or her principal (i.e., the senior), but some abusers unfortunately exploit their position, breach their duties, and take advantage of seniors.
Financial elder abuse may not be obvious. Many abusers will establish long cons that are designed to slowly siphon away funds and assets over a long period of time to avoid suspicion and detection. Elderly loved ones may not realize anything is wrong until all of their funds have been depleted. Our Valencia financial elder abuse litigation attorneys can assess your situation and determine whether legal action may be warranted.
Warning signs of financial elder abuse can include:
- Missing money or possessions. If you notice that more than a few valuable items in an elderly loved one's residence have gone missing, and the loved one does not know what happened to them, they may have been stolen.
- Unusual spending habits. A senior has the right to use their financial resources how they like. However, there may be cause for concern if an elderly loved one is suddenly spending far more than they usually do or are opening up new credit cards. They may be either purchasing items for an abuser or have been the victim of a scam and are embarrassed to talk about their resulting financial difficulties.
- Mismanaged affairs. Missed bill payments, letters from angry creditors, and/or an especially untidy home can all be signs that an elderly loved one is suffering from neglect if there is a caregiver, family member, or agent under a durable power of attorney that is supposed to be taking care of them.
- Mood swings. If you notice an elderly loved one seems unusually anxious, upset, or depressed, it may be worth investigating if they are suffering from some form of abuse. Check to make sure that their caregiver or agent under a durable power of attorney is appropriately managing their affairs. If possible, try and ask your loved one if anything is wrong or if they have been doing all of their usual activities, including socializing with friends and family.
- A mysterious and evasive new “friend.” The sudden appearance and entrenchment of a new individual in an elderly loved one's life can be a red flag, especially if they avoid members of the loved one's family or attempt to isolate the senior.
What Can I Do About Financial Elder Abuse?
When you suspect that a loved one is suffering from financial elder abuse, you should immediately contact us, first, to try and stop the abuse as soon as possible, and second, to make sure you file an action within California's statute of limitations for financial elder abuse. The statute of limitations for financial elder abuse in California is generally four years from when the plaintiff discovered, or should have discovered, the abuse.
Our Valencia financial elder abuse litigation lawyers at Kaiden Elder Law Group, PC can help your family explore your legal options and will work to resolve conflicts as efficiently as possible. We understand that you may want to avoid litigation if possible, especially if the abuser is a family member. Sometimes the process is easier than people think because once an attorney gets involved, many abusers will stand down and return any stolen property or funds when confronted.
Should an abuser refuse to voluntarily cooperate, we can pursue legal remedies. A successful civil suit can result in the abuser being forced to turn over stolen assets, interest on those assets, any gains made from investments, legal fees, and other damages.