Estate Planning for Aging Adults: How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

Feb 23, 2022 | Distinctive Care

American Seniors are living longer and, for many, remaining independent is extremely important. However, there may come a time when simple tasks, such as keeping up with bills and household maintenance, become too difficult to manage alone.

Many aging individuals either do not have any living relatives with whom they are closely connected, or their family and friends live too far away. To complicate matters further, the United States is also experiencing an increase in diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These diagnoses can rob individuals of their independence and may place an additional burden on family members and caregivers. Moreover, these circumstances can increase the opportunity for an individual to fall victim to elder financial abuse. Elder financial abuse is defined as someone taking money or property from an older person without their knowledge, understanding, or consent.

Many perpetrators of elder financial abuse are known by the elder and are sometimes spouses, adult children, extended family members, friends and neighbors, or in-home caregivers. Individuals 80 years of age or older are the most common victims of elder financial abuse. The majority of abusers are male, and two-thirds of the victims are females in their 80s. Often victims are more vulnerable to elder financial abuse if he or she was not involved with or aware of the financial decisions made by their spouse during their lifetime. These persons are more likely to seek advice from others after the death of their spouse, which can cause them to be targeted by someone who does not have their best interest at heart.

You can help prevent elder financial abuse by looking out for suspicious activity (e.g., uncharacteristic spending, a recurrence of unpaid bills, or a sudden increase in sales solicitations). Early detection is critical. Once financial exploitation starts, it doesn’t take long for a victim to suffer a significant financial loss. Older people should carefully monitor bank, credit card, retirement, and other financial statements.

Be proactive by setting up a Power of Attorney, which allows you to name a person(s) whom you trust implicitly to act on your behalf in the event of incapacity. A living or revocable trust is also an instrument individuals can use to avoid or overcome these challenges. A living trust can be used to coordinate and implement all the services necessary to improve the quality of care and the quality of life of an aging couple or individual. It can also protect assets from predators who may try to take advantage of elders.

If there comes a time that a family member can no longer manage his or her affairs, a trust permits a trustee to step in to support the family in caring for their loved one. As an independent, directed trust company, the Cumberland Trust team is composed of sensitive, caring professionals who have an exceptional ability to work with critical and complex situations specific to each family. We coordinate a full range of tailored Distinctive Care services to ease the family’s concern and provide support and stability to any beneficiary with unique needs.