Financial exploitation of senior citizens is a growing concern, especially in Eastern Washington. Protecting your senior relatives from falling victim to this form of abuse requires awareness, vigilance, and proactive measures. It’s crucial for you to be able to identify and prevent elder financial abuse, as well as know what legal remedies and reporting procedures you have at hand. By empowering yourself with knowledge and taking preventive actions, you can help safeguard your loved ones’ financial well-being and ensure they’re protected from exploitation.
Recognizing Elder Financial Abuse
- Be alert to changes in financial behavior. Keep an eye out for unexplained withdrawals, unpaid bills, sudden changes in spending habits, or significant transfers of assets. These could be red flags that indicate potential financial abuse.
- Observe changes in behavior and emotions. Take notice if your senior relatives exhibit signs of fear, confusion, anxiety, or withdrawal. These emotional changes can indicate financial exploitation or manipulation.
- Monitor interactions with caregivers or financial professionals. It’s best to stay involved in your loved one’s life by maintaining regular communication and understanding their relationships with caregivers or financial advisors. Take note if someone seems overly interested in their finances, or isolates them from friends and family.
- Recognize undue influence or coercion against your relative. Watch for signs of manipulation, like forced changes to legal documents, sudden additions to bank accounts, or pressure to make financial decisions against their will.
- Stay informed about common scams. Stay updated on prevalent scams that target seniors, such as fraudulent telemarketing schemes, fake lottery winnings, or online phishing attempts. Educate your relatives about these scams and advise them to be skeptical of unsolicited requests for personal or financial information.
Preventing Elder Financial Abuse
- Establish a support network. You should encourage your senior relatives to maintain connections with trusted family members, friends, and neighbors who can offer support and act as additional eyes and ears.
- Encourage open communication. Foster an environment where your loved ones feel comfortable discussing their financial matters with you. Encourage them to share concerns or any suspicious activities they encounter.
- Help manage your senior relatives’ financial affairs. Offer assistance in organizing bills, bank statements, and important documents. Consider setting up automatic payments to ensure bills are paid on time, and monitor financial transactions for any irregularities.
- Use trusted financial institutions. Help your senior relatives establish relationships with reputable banks or credit unions. It’s advisable to emphasize that they shouldn’t share personal or financial information with unknown entities or over the phone unless absolutely necessary and with verified sources.
- Set up a power of attorney (POA). Engage an attorney to draft a durable power of attorney document that grants a trusted individual the legal authority to make financial decisions on behalf of your loved ones if they become unable to do so themselves.
- Consider a revocable living trust. It pays to consult with an attorney about establishing a revocable living trust. This kind of trust can prevent elder financial abuse by protecting assets and designating a successor trustee to manage the estate, avoiding probate and providing added safeguards.
- Regularly review legal documents. It’s a good idea to periodically review wills, trusts, and other legal documents to ensure they’re up to date and reflective of your loved one’s wishes. Doing this can help prevent elder financial abuse via unauthorized changes by unscrupulous individuals.
- Encourage relatives to seek professional advice. You might suggest that your senior relatives involve certified financial planners or elder law attorneys themselves. These professionals can provide valuable guidance on planning an estate planning, making investments, and avoiding potential scams.
- Educate seniors about safe financial practices. Your senior relatives may need help to stay focused on basic financial concepts like budgeting, investment risks, and identity theft. Encourage them to be cautious when sharing personal information, especially online, and to regularly monitor their financial accounts for any suspicious activity.
Legal Remedies and Reporting Procedures
If you believe your senior relative is in immediate danger or if a crime has been committed, contact your local police department or sheriff’s office. They can provide immediate assistance and initiate a criminal investigation.
- Report suspicions you have of abuse. If you suspect elder financial abuse, immediately report it to Adult Protective Services (APS) in Washington State. They are equipped to investigate and intervene in cases of elder abuse. The APS hotline can be reached at 1-877-734-6277.
- Seek a restraining order. If the abuser is someone your relative knows—such as a family member or caregiver—consult with an attorney about getting a restraining order to prevent further contact and protect your loved one from potential harm.
- Document evidence. If possible, keep a record of any suspicious transactions, conversations, or incidents that might indicate financial exploitation. This documentation can support your case during investigations or legal proceedings.
- Contact the bank or financial institution. If you suspect financial abuse of your relative, get in touch with the relevant financial institution where your relative holds accounts. They may have protocols in place to investigate and mitigate fraudulent activities.
- Cooperate with investigators. If Adult Protective Services or law enforcement initiates an investigation into potential financial abuse of your senior relative, give them any information or evidence you have gathered to assist in their efforts.
- Support legal reforms. Stay informed about legislative efforts in Eastern Washington to combat elder financial abuse and support initiatives aimed at strengthening legal protections for seniors. Advocate for stricter laws and increased penalties for perpetrators.
- Consult with an attorney. Engage an attorney experienced in elder law to understand the legal options available to protect your loved one’s rights and finances. They can provide guidance on guardianship, conservatorship, or filing civil lawsuits against perpetrators.
Get In Touch With an Estate Planning Attorney
For help with elder financial abuse issues in Washington, you should reach out to the elder law attorneys at Legacy Law Group in Eastern Washington, Spokane Valley, and Spokane itself. Contact us at (509) 315-8087 today to get started.