Experts suspect that perhaps half a million elderly adults are ripped off by family members, lawyers and accountants potentially taking 2.6 billion dollars from infirm elder Americans. The crime is known as elder financial abuse. Some financial experts and consumer advocates are calling it the crime of the 21st century. This is something that is rarely explored because the victims are rarely in a position to report the abuse.
The tool used to steal is the same important document helps many who can no longer handle their financial affairs….the Power of Attorney. In fact, this document is one of the most important documents to have when setting up an estate plan. For the one giving the Power of Attorney, it offers piece of mind that all financial affairs will be handled by the person I appoint. Unfortunately with the downturn in our economy, many of those who are empowered to handle these finances may be tempted to transfer funds into their own account to cover bills, etc. Here are some tips to help prevent this from happening in your family:
1. The Power of Attorney can be given to more than one person, requiring them to act jointly on decisions.
2. The Power of Attorney can be given to one individual with the understanding that the rest of the family is given regular reports on transactions completed.
3. Do not give Power of Attorney to your attorney or your accountant unless it is absolutely necessary. In the event you do so, limit it ti the specific transaction at hand.
Some signs of abuse may be the following:
1. The elderly person becomes suddenly withdrawn and unwilling to talk about finances at all.
2. The medical attention or home care has become more sporadic or of lower quality.
If you suspect that abuse of this kind is occurring you should contact Adult Protective Services. Many will contact an attorney first since they are not sure where to turn. This is also a good place to start.
I can be reached by phone at 718-377-8880 or by e-mail at [email protected] if you need assistance with this type of issue or any estate planning matter.
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