Office Space: Look at ways to ward off elder financial abuse

Tuesday August 29, 2017 12:01 AM
By Conor Delaney

With an aging population, financial abuse of elders is becoming more common.

Financial abuse and exploitation can take on many forms. Many times it is committed by caregivers or loved ones taking care of an elderly adult unable to perform daily functions.

In most cases, a legal document known as a power of attorney is on file allowing designated family or caretakers the ability to make decisions. Trust is placed in that person to make the best decisions on behalf of the person, and all too often the person is given full and total control of bank accounts and assets.

It is imperative that if you are granting legal power of attorney to someone that it is someone you have full faith they will act in your best interest. It is also recommended that you have more than one power of attorney to allow for checks and balances on finances.

Elder abuse may also occur in other forms outside of a power-of-attorney capacity. Elderly people are often times targeted for different marketing campaigns for various products, ranging from insurance to investment products and even things such as reverse mortgages. These specific products may not be suitable recommendations. It can also take place by home-repair professionals.

If you feel pressured or uncomfortable making a decision, have another person who may be more educated on the topic help make decisions or review proposals before signing and providing a form of payment.

Based upon a survey from the National Adult Protective Services Association, 1 in 20 elderly adults indicate they were the recipients of perceived financial mistreatment. Unfortunately, it is underreported. Only about one in 44 cases of financial abuse is documented.

As an owner of local financial firm with a national footprint of advisers, we have to be very conscious of ways in which powers of attorney are being used. We suggest to our advisers to get to know the power of attorney of their clients if one is placed on file. It is important for our advisers to understand why the power of attorney is placed on file and in what capacities they are allowed to act on.

I had experience with an adviser who had a client she felt was being taking advantage of through power of attorney. The power of attorney was withdrawing large sums of money and stated it was for the care of the elderly person. She felt the withdrawals were excessive and very well knew the health condition of the client. She contacted the client immediately and reported the case to the Department of Aging. They acted quickly and ended up having the power of attorney, along with the financial adviser, appear in court and revoked all privileges of the power of attorney.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor. Although we don’t draft powers of attorney, we can assist with providing a referral. Respond if necessary.

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