Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of elder abuse, and it takes many different forms. One overlooked form of financial exploitation is through someone’s will. This blog will take an in-depth look at the serious nature of elder financial exploitation and how certain individuals may try to exert undue influence over a vulnerable person.
Explaining Elder Financial Exploitation
Elder financial exploitation can take many different forms, but some common methods include the following:
- Deception - Someone may try to convince an elder that their money is needed for a specific purpose, but instead, it is used for something entirely different.
- Theft - Money or property can be stolen from an elderly person through physical or electronic means
- Forgery - Forging signatures or other documents to gain access to finances or assets.
- Coercion - Threatening or using emotional pressure to gain control of an elder's finances.
- Taking Advantage of a Person's Vulnerabilities - Generally, this involves taking advantage of an elderly person's cognitive decline to gain control over their assets. In some cases, it can involve convincing them to sign documents they do not understand or that are not in their best interests.
In many cases, the perpetrator is someone whom the elder trusts, such as a family member, friend, or caretaker. Unfortunately, this type of abuse is not often discovered until it is too late.
How Can a Loved One Be Exploited Through a Will?
Financial exploitation through a will is a serious problem, as it can move assets and finances away from those who are due inheritance to the benefit of someone else. Loved ones, such as the elderly or disabled, may be particularly vulnerable. Financial exploitation through a will often involves undue influence.
What are the Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation?
Unlike physical abuse, it is much harder to determine when a loved one is being subjected to financial exploitation or undue influence. However, there are some warning signs to watch out for that may indicate that someone is trying to take advantage of an elderly person's vulnerability through their will. These include:
- Sudden changes to a will or other legal documents - If a will is changed suddenly or if the elderly person does not fully understand the changes, it could be a sign that someone is exerting undue influence.
- Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts - If a loved one is suddenly withdrawing large sums of money without an explanation, it could be a sign that someone is trying to take advantage.
- Changes in power of attorney - If a power of attorney is changed to someone other than an individual whom you expect can carry out your loved one's best wishes, this may be a sign that they are being manipulated.
- The elderly person becoming isolated and withdrawn - Sudden changes in your loved ones behavior could mean something is amiss.
- The elderly person showing undue deference or obedience to another individual - Unusual obedience or loyalty towards another person, especially a stranger or someone your loved one has just met, may be a sign of potential wrongdoing.
Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones
It is crucial to be aware of the potential for exploitation, especially if you have an elderly family member who is vulnerable. Here are a few tips for protecting yourself and your loved ones from elder financial exploitation:
- Ensure that a trusted individual is overseeing their finances.
- Talk to them regularly and ask questions about any changes to their will or other documents.
- Make sure the elderly person has access to independent legal advice.
- Monitor bank account activity for suspicious withdrawals or transfers of funds.
- Regularly check in with your elderly family member.
If you suspect that an elderly person may be a victim of financial exploitation, it is important to report it as soon as possible. Reporting instances of elder abuse can help protect vulnerable individuals from further harm. If you believe someone is subjecting an elderly person to undue influence or taking unfair advantage of their financial situation, contact your local authorities.
Protecting Your Loved Ones From Being Taken Advantage Of
With over 40 years of combined experience, Obenshain Law Group has a team of highly experienced attorneys specializing in undue influence and financial exploitation cases. Contact us today for more information about our services and how we can help your family.
If you think that a loved one has been financially exploited through a will or other estate planning documents, then contact us today at (540) 318-7360 to schedule a free consultation.