About a year ago, one of our clients, while on vacation, learned that his father Mr. X had died. Well, no surprise - the gentleman was 95 and in poor health. The shock came three days later. While in transit back from Australia, our client learned that 6 months previously the father's nurse had conspired with a law firm to create all new legal documents naming herself Power of Attorney, Executor and Beneficiary of a $2 million estate! By the time our client landed back in the US, the funeral was over, the safety deposit box was emptied of stock certificates, the family jewelry, artwork and silver were gone, and the locks on the door of the family home were changed. If our client had set foot on the property, he would have been arrested for trespassing!
We helped our client find an elder abuse attorney to try to recover something, but bottom line we expect no recovery. If Mr. X had been our client, we would have sounded the alarm 6 months earlier on receipt of the power of attorney forms. He was not our client, so we had no way of intervening until it was too late.
Elder financial abuse is a hidden multi-billion dollar industry. We lose the ability to make good financial decisions in the last 5 years of our lives. Seniors, particularly those who live alone, are vulnerable to "advisors" selling improper or high commission "investments." Seniors are victimized by identify theft, healthcare fraud, telemarketing schemes, and property fraud. The National Adult Protective Services Association provides detail on how to recognize and combat elder abuse.
Caregivers can be unscrupulous with seniors in their care. "Hey, Mr. X, your son doesn't visit any more; he doesn't love you. I'm here every day. I take care of you, why won't you take care of me?" Without a video taped signing, we have no idea of the state of mind of Mr. X when he revised his estate plan. We did ask the local bank why THEY did not alert our client when the new Powers of Attorney were presented. Their answer, "We've known Mr. X for 40 years. What Mr. X says, goes!!" We believe the bank did Mr. X and his family no favors by acquiescing so readily.
Read the full commentary here.