Exploitation of seniors is an extremely serious issue. Financial abuse costs seniors 2.6 billion annually, according to a study by MetLife, although four out of five cases are not reported. In the majority of those cases, family members and caregivers are the culprits. The Justice Department warns this abuse can occur in several ways
- Borrowing funds without repaying.
- Cashing checks without permission.
- Transferring ownership of property.
- Committing identity theft.
- Denying services to save money.
This type of abuse can occur when a parent has added a child to the parent’s account or has given that child a “power of attorney,” which conveys authority for that child to act in place of the parent. A power of attorney can play an important role in an estate plan. However, because the document provides so much power – in some ways more power than handing your child a blank check – it should be used with appropriate safeguards.
Unfortunately, I have seen circumstances where a child will even “bully” a parent to turn over resources against the parent’s wishes. As reprehensible as this is, exploitation of a parent can also occur in more subtle – but equally serious – ways. Probably the most common example is the child repeatedly asking for money or asking the parent to bail the child out of his or her own problems.
Obviously, the parent/child relationship changes significantly from the time a child is young to the time the parent is a senior. When young, a child relies on the parent to draw the lines of appropriate behavior. However, if that dynamic continues into the parent’s golden years, a child’s immaturity can turn into exploitation. This is especially true if the parent must deal with inappropriate requests while attempting to maintain a close adult relationship with that child; all while dealing with the infirmities of age, loneliness, failing health, etc.
Whether involving family members, a caregiver, or others, the line between a healthy relationship and an exploitative one is not always obvious. Come to a free, no obligation presentation to find simple ways seniors can protect their estates.