Preventing financial elder abuse

When beloved actor Mickey Rooney died in 2014 at the age of 93, he had only $18,000 in the bank, according to media reports. He said he had been a victim of elder financial abuse by his stepson and the stepson’s wife, claiming that the couple deliberately misled him about his own finances, used threatening and abusive language and refused him basic necessities, such as food and medicine. Rooney’s conservator sued, and secured a $2.8 million stipulated judgment against the stepson and his wife.

Financial elder abuse costs its victims nearly $3 million a year. Senior are most often likely to be abused by family members, but they also are victims of fraud and telephone scams.

The Elder Justice Roadmap, a 40-page federal report that includes interviews with 750 elder abuse experts, outlines five ways to prevent elder abuse. Here is a brief look at steps to take, as listed on Next Avenue.

“1. Awareness: The report calls for an increase in public awareness of elder abuse — a multi-faceted problem that requires a holistic, well-coordinated response in services, education, policy and research.

  1. Brain health: It also wants to see more research into brain health, with an enhanced focus on cognitive capacity (and incapacity) and mental health. These are critical factors both for elder abuse victims and for perpetrators.
  2. Caregiving: There should be better support and training for the tens of millions of paid and unpaid caregivers who play a critical role in preventing elder abuse, the Elder Justice Roadmap says.
  3. Economics: The authors want to see the costs of elder abuse quantified, particularly because this national problem includes huge fiscal costs to victims, families and society.
  4. Resources: The report says the nation needs to strategically invest more resources in services, education, research and expanding knowledge in order to reduce elder abuse in America.”

Caregivers, social workers, medical professionals and financial advisors need to be aware of the signs of elder abuse and know what to do if they suspect it.

Starting in 2018, securities firms will be required to try to take steps to do their part in preventing elder financial abuse, including obtaining contact information of a person who is trusted by the elderly client.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

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