Elder abuse is much more common than most people realize, largely because it often happens in secret to a certain degree. This is especially true within the family unit when only a few individuals are monitoring the financial activities of an elderly family member. Financial abuse can happen in a number of ways — many of which are hard to spot — making it difficult to investigate the situation before significant damage occurs. That is why it is essential to have an experienced personal injury lawyer handling the case who understands the methods many individuals use to steal from elderly individuals.
Abusing Power of Attorney
Elderly individuals often name another person as their “power of attorney” to manage their financial affairs. This person can sign documents and make certain decisions regarding the financial stability of the elderly person. This person is commonly a child who the parent trusts, but untrustworthy relatives might also fall into this position of power.
This can be a bad situation when the power of attorney thinks they may do as they please with the elderly relative’s financial resources, including transfer of personal property or real estate, or attempting to change a will personally. All individuals who are assigned power of attorney have specific fiduciary responsibilities to the primary individual; financial abuse can become both civil and criminal cases in some instances.
Physical Threats and Coercion
Coercing an elderly family member into approving a financial decision is another form of financial abuse. It is not necessary for an individual to actually strike an elderly person for an abuse case to be valid: the mere threat of abuse is illegal as well. Both criminal and civil remedies may be available when someone realizes what is happening in private and relays the information to the local officials or the family attorney.
Abusing Bank Accounts and ATM Cards
Most elderly individuals have traditionally used bank accounts and paper checks to conduct their personal finances. Blank checks can be a real problem when family members can take it upon themselves to steal checks and draw funds from the elderly individual’s bank account. The same thing can occur with private caretakers (when the elderly individual still lives at home) or with nursing home staff. Unauthorized use of ATM cards can be even worse and are often more difficult to catch unless there is video of the perpetrator, as signatures are not always necessary. In addition, caretakers or family members alike can steal in small increments by purposely failing to return change when running errands or by charging the vulnerable elderly individual excessively for services.
It is important to remember that these cases can be difficult to catch, but a personal injury lawyer such as the Personal injury lawyer Memphis, TN locals trust knows the methods and may conduct a full investigation leading to recovery of damages in a civil suit. When the state gets involved in a case, it can be used as leverage to force the perpetrators into admission and payment of restitution along with potential financial damages based on the egregious nature of the act.
Thanks to authors at Patterson Bray for their insight into Personal Injury Law.