May is National Elder Law Month, and as we recognize our senior loved ones, it is important to protect them from exploitation in all its forms. The US Census estimates that since 2010 the number of Americans 65-and-older has grown by 34.2% to over 13,787,044 people. In fact, the first wave of Baby Boomers hit 65 years old in 2011, and many are now looking back on a decade of retirement. However, an aging population also creates the potential for financial abuse by bad actors. The National Council for Aging estimates that annual losses for such abuse are at least $36.5 Billion. The good news is that exploitation and abuse are preventable.
Prevention should be your highest priority. As Benjamin Franklin famously advised, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Communicate regularly with your elderly loved ones. Opening up a conversation and building trust helps senior adults feel valued and included, and they may be more open to being honest about abuse. Regular communication about their life can help you detect the early warning signs of abuse.
How to Spot Financial Exploitation and Abuse
The Department of Justice has identified the following red flags you should be looking out for when it comes to the older adult’s living situation, care, and finances:
- Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money
- A person accompanying them to financial institutions, health care visits, or other appointments
- The inclusion of additional names on the bank account(s) or credit card(s)
- Unauthorized ATM withdrawals
- Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
- Discovery of a forged signature for financial transactions or the titles of their possessions
- The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to their property or possessions
- Unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
- Establishing services that are not necessary
- Their own account or report of financial exploitation
You will also want to watch for signs of isolation. Senior adults may feel the need to isolate themselves from friends and family during rough times to avoid being a burden. Also, be sure that your loved one has an estate plan in place and be on alert for changes in their will, trust, powers of attorney, or other financial documents.
Protecting Loved Ones
Many people are reluctant to breach these subjects for various reasons. Still, it is crucial to overcome this reluctance because the alternative can be protracted legal battles where family legacies are squandered on attorney fees. Even worse, sometimes the abuser disappears with the money and is nowhere to be found.
Ultimately, involved family members can deter bad actors who fear discovery. So in honor of National Elder Law Month, get in touch with your elderly loved ones and take the necessary steps to protect their legacy.
Contact Jerimy Kirschner & Associates for more information.