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Preventing and reporting elder financial abuse

elder financial abuse, money, scam, fraud, estate planning, fiduciaryElder financial abuse is a growing problem. In an earlier blog, I provided information about the reasons elder financial abuse has increased and “red flags” that may indicate abuse has occurred. In this blog, I provide information about preventing elder financial abuse and reporting it if it has already occurred.

Ideally, financial elder abuse would be prevented before it happens. Some prevention ideas include:

  • Consolidating accounts (where it makes sense) so that there are fewer accounts to monitor
  • Setting up statements to go to multiple people (e.g. two children of the elder)
  • Setting up alerts when purchases, withdrawals or transfers exceed a certain limit
  • Setting up automatic payments for recurring items
  • Signing a financial power of attorney that names only trusted individuals and granting them only the powers necessary to assist the elder
  • Familiarizing yourself with the elder’s team of advisors, such as the elder’s attorney, accountant, insurance agent, broker and financial advisor
  • Setting up assets in a revocable trust so that the successor trustee can seamlessly take over when the elder’s capacity dwindles
  • Maintaining a healthy relationship with the elder so they know they can reach out for help if they feel like someone is taking advantage of them

If you become aware that elder financial abuse has occurred, you should file a report with the appropriate state agency, usually Adult Protective Services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration has a helpful website with a toll free number that assists the caller in finding the appropriate agency in their state. In Arizona, you can call (877) 767-2385 to report the abuse by telephone or go here to report the abuse online.

In addition to reporting the elder financial abuse, you should also assist the elder in taking steps to avoid further exploitation, such as closing compromised accounts, notifying financial institutions of the wrongdoing, revoking the wrongdoer’s authority over the elder’s accounts and revoking or amending legal documents to ensure that the wrongdoer does not have continued access to the elder’s finances. Depending on the severity of the financial exploitation, it may also be appropriate to contact an attorney or the police.

Jenny Maas