People are living longer today, thanks to medical advances and more health-conscious lifestyles, but that has created a situation that previous generations didn’t often confront. Helping take care of your aging parents or other relatives, especially when it comes to managing and protecting their finances, has become a concern for this generation.
Cases of elder abuse are very common; however, many go unreported. Unfortunately, some elders suffer in silence because they are too ashamed to say anything.
Common forms of abuse:
(1) One of predators’ favorite targets is the elderly, and sophisticated scammers will call the victim and tell them that they owe a debt and will be legally prosecuted if they don’t pay. When the victim sends them funds, now the scammer may have access to their accounts. making it worse for the victim.
(2) Caregivers who are taking care of the victim may have easy access to their account statements, credit cards, and so on. The caregivers might also befriend the victim who is elderly and does not have any family. The victim feels close to the caregiver and will give them funds to cover expenses.
(3) Members of their own family may also fall into this category and take advantage of having access to the elder’s accounts, or may pull on the heartstrings of the victim.
It can happen to anyone or you if you are not vigilant.
Here are three ways that you can protect yourself and your loved ones:
1) Have the money talk: It is NEVER an easy conversation to have, but one that is so important. Make sure that their assets are protected (such as in a trust), or that their will is kept up to date; ask them where they keep it. One tool that would be helpful is to create a trust, such as a revocable trust; this way the parent can still have control; when they become incapacitated or pass away, the trust will then become irrevocable. At this point, the trustee named by the creator of the trust in the document will follow the requests listed in the trust. Coral Gables Trust Company is able to be named as trustee in order to make sure that the creators’ desires are being followed.
2) Watch for signs of trouble: Are the elders spending too much time with someone you don’t know? Do you notice large withdrawals from their accounts, or bills piling up at home where in the past there were none? These can be signs that they are being scammed, or that your aging relative needs help managing finances. Make sure you spend time with them and look for odd behavior. If they are receiving too many unsolicited phone calls, encourage your relative to place him-or herself on the DO NOT CALL REGISTRY. This should help with those types of calls.
3) Guardianship: In extreme cases, in which the relative does not want to receive any assistance and there is clear proof that there is financial abuse, a helpful tool would be to begin guardianship proceedings for the victim. In this scenario, someone is given the legal responsibility for the care of someone who is unable to manage his or her own affairs. There may be underlying medical issues as to why they are behaving this way, (such as dementia and/or Alzheimer’s). It is a long legal process but one that is sometimes necessary.
Taking care of our aging parents is not an easy task, but one that here, at Coral Gables Trust Company, we will be more than happy to assist you with and to direct you to the right solutions for your family.