Elder law professionals agree that preventing senior financial exploitation requires acting fast–it is never too early to investigate suspicions about a senior loved one’s finances. As reported in a recent Star-Telegram article, many adult children begin asking questions about their parents finances only when it is too late–after they’ve already been swindled out of a fortune. For example, the article shared the story of a woman who waited to learn mor after noticing some red flags with her parents money management. By the time she started investigating the elderly couple had already had nearly $100,000 taken by another family member over a ten year period.
Unfortunately, each New York elder law attorney at our firm knows that this situation is far from unique. Many seniors, particularly those without outside observers keeping an eye on their finances, find themselves exploited in their golden years. The wrongdoers can be anyone, from family members and caregivers to strangers who gain the senior’s trust.
Financial exploitation takes many forms. In the case described in the article, the elderly parents, in their 80s at the time, had more than 35 different credit-card accounts taken out in their names unknowingly. It took their daughter almost two years to sort out the mess. The solution included giving the daughter a Power of Attorney over the couple’s finances so that the daughter could monitor the situation and identify any problematic issues.
While these examples are clear reminders of the need to take preventative steps to keep finances secure, talking about money with parents is never an easy conversation. Our New York City elder law attorneys appreciate that both parents and adult children may dread the discussion, as it involves issues of privacy and independence.
To help mediate the tension, many advocate inviting a third party into the mix, such as a legal professional or financial planner. For one thing, the professional will bring valuable information to the discussion, with specific recommendations about strategies available in the state to plan financially and prepare for the future. But beyond that, as the article notes, it is often much easier for parents to work with professionals because, “it’s human nature to be able to open up to a stranger.”
In any event, senior financial exploitation is too common and the stakes are too high to put off action to prevent problems. The need to act fast is even more important if signs of cognitive impairment are present–like dementia or Alzheimers. Financial missteps are often the first problems when memory loss sets in. Catching those problems early means preventing countless headaches that come with missed bills, late fees, and other costly complications.
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