Elderly people often complete a durable power of attorney, nominating a third party to manage their affairs in the event they become unable to do so. The majority of elderly people nominate a close family member to act as their agent, thinking nobody will have their best interests at heart more than a family member. Usually, the elderly person nominates his adult child. But unfortunately, sometimes the child has only his own best interests at heart.
Financial Elder Abuse: Taking Advantage of the Most Vulnerable
Financial elder abuse is on the rise, and most often it is perpetrated by someone close to the elderly person. A recent study found that 60 percent of financial abuse cases involve an adult child mismanaging or otherwise stealing his parents’ funds for his own financial gain.
When financial elder abuse happens under a durable power of attorney, it seems even more egregious than if the elderly person fell victim to scam by an unknown third-party. In the case of a durable power of attorney, the elderly person is being taken advantage of by the very person he thought he could trust.
Many people who become aware of financial elder abuse may think they have no recourse, particularly if the elderly person nominated the agent under a power of attorney. But California law imposes both civil and criminal penalties on individuals who prey on the elderly.
Even if the elderly person nominated the agent to manage his financial affairs, it does not mean the agent can spend the money any way he wishes. The agent has a legal duty to manage the elderly person’s finances and ensure that they are available for the elderly person’s care. This includes paying all bills when due, not giving away the elderly person’s funds, and generally managing the elderly person’s finances in the same manner the elderly person managed them.
If the agent fails to meet that duty, he faces civil and criminal penalties. In cases involving financial elder abuse, the trier of fact (either the judge or jury) may impose up to three times the amount of the fine or penalty allowed under the statute. Theft or embezzlement of an elderly person’s money can result in up to four years in prison and fines of up to $10,000, if the stolen property exceeded $950.
So often in these cases, the elderly person is unaware that his assets are being mismanaged or depleted, either because he blindly trusts the agent or because he is mentally unable to comprehend what is going on. Because of this, it is very important for friends and family members to contact a financial elder abuse attorney immediately if they suspect the elderly person is being taken advantage of. Action must be taken before the elderly person has no more funds to live out the rest of his life.
Walnut Creek Financial Elder Abuse Attorneys
It is sad to think that anybody could take advantage of those most in need of help, especially when that person is a family member. But it happens all too often. If you believe that a loved one is the victim of elder financial abuse, Appel Law Firm LLP, can help. Our financial elder abuse attorneys are not only experienced – together we have a combined 60+ years – but we also understand the difficult emotions cases of elder financial abuse can raise, especially when it is an adult child taking advantage of the elderly person. If you believe a loved one is the victim of financial elder abuse, contact Appel Law Firm LLP in Walnut Creek to schedule an appointment today.