Financial Exploitation:  What You Need to Know to Protect YourselfEach year, millions of seniors are financially exploited.  This exploitation sometimes comes through email, internet, or telephone solicitations or through complex schemes were the victim is tricked into sending money to help an allegedly incapacitated loved one. Another common form of exploitation is when a paid caregiver either steals from their client or manipulates their client into giving them money.  A senior’s financial planner may also exploit them by taking advantage of their investments and mismanaging their accounts. With so many different kinds of exploitation, it is important to know how to protect yourself.

In Michigan, the Vulnerable Adult Protection Act states that “[a] person shall not through fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, coercion, or unjust enrichment obtain or use or attempt to obtain or use a vulnerable adult’s money or property to directly or indirectly benefit that person knowing or having reason to know the vulnerable adult is a vulnerable adult.  Senior citizens are considered vulnerable adults under this Act which allows for civil punishment of the offender who exploits an elderly person.  There are also criminal statutes which are in place to punish those who commit financially exploitive acts against the elderly.

To protect a loved one from falling victim to someone seeking to exploit them it is important to keep in communication with them about who they are in contact with and about how they are spending their money.  For some, it would never occur to them that the person who called needing money may not be being truthful.  Talk to your loved one about these and other scams and explain the risk.  Also, be involved in their care to the point that you are familiar with their caregivers.  It will also be important that your loved one’s caregiver has signed an agreement which states explicitly that they are not to borrow money or accept gifts from your loved one. Ask your loved one about any loans or gifts they may have given their care provider.

Protecting your loved one’s resources through estate planning may also be an option.  Placing the majority of their assets in a trust, for instance, would protect them from exploitation while continuing to provide for your loved one.  If your loved one is not capable of defending their assets it may also be necessary to look into the appointment of a conservator to protect their interest.

If you suspect your loved one is or will be exploited it is important to take steps to protect them and their assets.  The advice of an experienced elder law attorney will be vital in assisting you during this process.  Our office has experienced attorneys who are knowledgeable about the issues facing today’s seniors.  Please contact us if we may be of assistance.

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