Most discussions of elder financial exploitation include accusations of unique scams targeted at trusting seniors. As we discussed last week, many wrongdoers try to swindle the elderly community via insurance frauds, home repair schemes, and similar techniques. These are very real dangers that must be guarded against. However, it is a mistake to assume that all scams are committed by random strangers.
The sad reality is that many act of elderly financial exploitation are perpetrated by family members. Because of a senior’s propensity to trust their relatives and/or not wish to come forward with suspicions against loved ones, financial crimes committed by friends and family are particularly hard to identify. Experts working on these affairs point out that the vast majority of these situations never result in liability. In other words–wrongdoers often get away with it. The “success” rate of this exploitation is one reason why it continues to be perpetrated time and again. That makes it incumbent on all of us to do everything in our power to check on vulnerable friends and relatives and put plans in minimize the risk of harm.
Prevention is far better than dealing with exploitation after it has occurred. For example, Courthouse News recently reported on one case where an 80-year old woman was forced to file a civil lawsuit in an attempt to get her house back. According to the documents filed with the court, the senior attempted to pay her 2012 property taxes on the home when, to her surprise, she was told that she was no longer the owner of the property.
Apparently, her adult son was the new owner. The woman does not remember knowingly signing over the deed to the home, but the son claims she did just that over a year ago. The son admits that he did not pay anything for the property. However, he claims that it was given in “compensation” for the fact that two vehicles that he owned were “lost” to his other siblings. It is unclear from the report exactly how the other sibling’s potential debt may have been involved in this scheme.
Sadly, many seniors find themselves in somewhat similar circumstances, losing control over assets to unscrupulous relatives. When professionals are not around to provide oversight to these sorts of transactions and identify problems early on, then complications like this develop. Ideally, this would have been caught before the deed was signed, eliminating the need for a prolonged legal battle just to fix the fraud.
For help ensuring you or a loved one has that professional oversight, throughout New York please get in touch with our elder law attorneys.