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WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU SUSPECT ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE?

Posted: October 31, 2018

Elder financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of a senior’s money, property, or assets. Statistics indicate that elder financial abuse is severely underreported.  One reason it is estimated that only 1 in 44 cases of elder financial abuse is reported is because it often goes unnoticed, especially when elder financial abuse is perpetrated by a caretaker or loved one. 

Another problem has been that financial institutions are reluctant to release confidential information that may be needed to discover elder financial abuse.  In an effort to rectify this problem, Congress recently passed “The Senior Safe Act of 2018” as part of new Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.  The Senior Safe Act is intended to protect financial institutions from being sued for the release of otherwise confidential information when there is reason to believe a senior citizen may be a victim of elder financial abuse.

Many people simply don't know what to do when they suspect elder financial abuse.  What should you do if you suspect financial elder abuse?

A good place to start is having a conversation with the suspected abuser and/or the elder.  A simple conversation about finances or requesting that a Power of Attorney agent or a Trustee provide an accounting to the appropriate persons can give you a better idea about whether financial abuse may be occurring. 

If the suspected abuser is uncooperative or unresponsive to your questions, consider reporting your suspicions.  Every county in Wisconsin has a dedicated elder abuse reporting hotline.  To file a report, go to https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/aps/ear-agencies.htm and call the number for the department listed for the county in which the senior citizen resides.  Of course, in the case of a serious situation that could be prevented by immediate intervention, the police should be called as well. 

An attorney may be able to assist in revealing elder financial abuse.  For example, if you suspect financial abuse by a financial power of attorney agent or a Trustee of a Trust created by the senior citizen, an attorney may be able to file an action requesting a court to order that an accounting be produced by the agent or Trustee. 

If the elder has the legal capacity to revoke or execute legal documents, an attorney may also be able to assist the elder with the preparation of estate planning and power of attorney documents that could help prevent financial abuse.  Or, if the elder does not have the capacity to sign legal documents, an attorney can also help with evaluating whether a court ordered guardianship should be pursued. 

Protecting family and loved ones from elder financial abuse is something that requires the involvement of family and friends. We are here to help you with these efforts.  Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this important subject. 

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