If you are getting older and less able to care for yourself, legal documents can help prevent future exploitation. Part of preventing financial elder abuse is preparing yourself for a future in which you may need care. Preventing exploitation in your community is about keeping your eyes open for those in need of care around you. Let’s look at how to prevent financial elder abuse in your own life and in the lives of those you care about.
There are different types of financial exploitation of the elderly with possible ways to prevent each issue.
Investment scams generally target an older person who has enough assets to invest. With mental defenses no longer as sharp, this kind of scheme is easy for an older adult with money to fall into. The best protection against this type of scam is to give a trusted person the ability to make decisions for you when needed. You can do this by drawing up a durable general power of attorney.
This type of legal power grants the trusted individual the ability to make decisions for you. They can accomplish almost any type of transaction for you with this legal document. Your trusted person can also care for you should you become incapacitated or incompetent in some way. A durable general power of attorney gives you a measure of protection as you discuss financial decisions with your trusted person. The authorized person can also keep an eye on the accounts and take care of security measures for your assets.
Living Without Protection
Without a durable general power of attorney, another family member or friend could coerce you into signing them as a power of attorney.
For example, if you are a mother whose grown son is a drug addict, you may have reason to be wary. Even if you have joint accounts with your daughter (and not your son), the unexpected can happen. For example, let’s say you become less sharp, and your son takes advantage by having you sign a power of attorney.
Even if your daughter takes the issue to court, it may remain unresolved. The court could rule that there is no proof that you signed a power of attorney under duress. When the case ends, your son could have already drained your financial resources without your knowledge or consent. You and your daughter both lose out on what was rightfully yours.
Drawing up a power of attorney now with a trusted, caring person in your life is your best defense against financial exploitation.
Credit Card or Check Misuse
Quite often, the elderly let others use their accounts without knowing that someone is misusing their funds. In these cases, joint holdings with someone who can keep an eye on the monthly statements can help. A trusted power of attorney can also act in your stead at the bank or with any financial institution.
Others are less likely to steal from someone who has someone watching over their accounts.
Identity theft is another common type of exploitation of the elderly. The best prevention for this type of abuse is a credit freeze on your credit bureau accounts. A credit freeze forces retailers, banks, and credit card companies or lenders to do extensive checks of your identity before allowing a large loan, a new credit card, or a new bank account.
Medicaid fraud is when someone uses your medical card or information to get health care goods, services, or funds. If you are on Medicaid, this can happen if someone has your information and uses it to buy what they need with your insurance coverage.
The state covers Medicaid expenses, but when someone passes away, the estate often has to pay back the amount used for that person. For this reason, Medicaid fraud can be quite costly to an older person’s estate when they pass. You can help prevent Medicaid fraud by keeping your Medicaid information private from everyone but a few trusted providers and family members. Also keep track of billing statements or coverage statements that you receive from Medicaid.
Embezzlement is when someone uses funds for something other than what they are supposed to. For example, individuals commit embezzlement if they create a fake bill for Grandma’s doctor appointment and then use the earmarked money for their own personal expenses.
If you have a home caregiver, it is crucial to have a trusted individual check up on expenses and ensure that your money goes where it is supposed to.
We Can Help
If you want to secure your future financial security, it is essential to think about and plan now. We specialize in elder law issues and in planning for the future through estate planning. If you have family or friends that you cannot trust to have your best interests at heart, we can help you plan for going forward. Planning for financial security as an elderly individual is a part of protecting yourself and your future heirs. Contact us for a free initial consultation and find out how we can help you.