The National Center on Elder Abuse defines Financial or Material Exploitation as:
The illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets.
Examples include, but are not limited to, cashing an elderly person’s checks without authorization or permission; forging an older person’s signature; misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions; coercing or deceiving an older person into signing a document (e.g., contracts or will); and the improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney.
The Center lists the following warning signs and symptoms of exploitation and other forms of financial abuse:
Sudden changes in bank account or banking practice, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder;
The inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card;
Unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card;
Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents;
Unexplained disappearance of fund or valuable possessions;
Substandard care being provided or bills unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources;
Discovery of an elder’s signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his/her possessions;
Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an elder’s affairs and possessions;
The provision of services that are not necessary; and
An elder’s report of financial exploitation.
- Gifts to persons (caregivers, service providers, friends) who are not the natural objects of the client’s bounty
- Gifts to anyone that are so large, given the size and nature of the client’s estate, as to threaten the client’s economic security
- Loans, particularly if undocumented, to anyone; special scrutiny required if to non‑family members
- Actions by client’s fiduciary (attorney-in-fact, trustee, other) that reflect poor judgment or conflict of interest
- Existence of estate-planning documents naming non‑family members as fiduciaries or beneficiaries
- Existence of joint accounts with non‑family members
- Evidence that client signs checks prepared by others
- Bequest plans or other arrangements favoring one child, particularly if a caregiver
- Evidence of physical harm (bruises, cuts, etc.)
- Evidence of excessive dependence on a child or other person, particularly if such other person is critical to the client’s independence and/or ability to avoid a nursing home
- Material inconsistency between client’s understanding of estate and its true value
- Excessive fees charged by professionals (trustees, attorneys, financial advisors, stockbrokers, other)
- Unconscionable terms of loans or other financial arrangements.
Courses of Action When Elder Abuse Identified :
- Require accountings from prior fiduciaries. Court procedures are available to compel such accountings.
- Institute conservatorship/guardianship procedures to formalize authority in a third party who will be accountable to the courts.
- Contact Adult Protective Services (or its equivalent) in the client’s community. [Caveat: Doing so may constitute a breach of confidentiality.]
- Revoke or amend estate-planning documents that do not comport with client’s wishes.
- Commence civil action against person(s) who take financial advantage of client. Such actions may include elder abuse (in jurisdictions so providing), fraud, negligence,
misrepresentation, theft and breach of contract.
- Commence civil action against person(s) who physically abused the client. Such actions may include elder abuse, assault, battery, wrongful death and violation of Patient Bill of Rights (if events occurred in a nursing home).
- Remove assets from accounts held jointly with suspected abuser.
- Involve the police and raise possible criminal charges against abuser.
- Draft documents (durable power of attorney, trust, other) to effect true, independent wishes of client.
- Involve social worker, counselor, psychologist or professional geriatric care manager.
- Involve professional, bonded fiduciary to manage assets for client.
- Wealth is not a Barrier to Abuse and Exploitation – it’s an Invitation (larkkirkwood.wordpress.com)
- Elder Abuse & Financial Crimes: What’s it all about? (larkkirkwood.wordpress.com)
- Appalling information about Missouri & Elder Abuse! (larkkirkwood.wordpress.com)
- National Organization to Stop Elder Abuse and Guardianship Abuse (larkkirkwood.wordpress.com)
- Seniors and Conservatorship – helping you understand. (larkkirkwood.wordpress.com)
- The 5 Senses of Abuse (larkkirkwood.wordpress.com)