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Monday, October 8, 2012

Seniors Face Difficult Decisions On How To Protect Themselves and Their Wealth in Their Golden Years by Texas Elder Financial Abuse Lawyer and Texas Financial Exploitation Lawyer

Protecting Yourself and Your Wealth From Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation in Your Golden Years by Texas Elder Financial Abuse Lawyer

Many seniors will face difficult decisions on how to protect themselves and how to protect their wealth in their golden years.  Unfortunately for many seniors, they are not aware of many of the potential dangers they may face as they age and many will become victims of elder financial abuse and exploitation.  In fact, over 10 percent of seniors are affected by some form of elder abuse including financial exploitation and the numbers are rising as the senior population increases and the number of opportunists targeting seniors continues to increase.  These opportunists include caretakers, financial advisers, and others who see a senior as an easy target to make money.

Caretakers Often Have Access and Opportunity to Commit Financial Exploitation and Caretaker Financial Abuse of Seniors

As a Texas Elder Financial Abuse Lawyer, I have seen numerous situations where a senior falls victim to caretaker financial exploitation.  Caretaker financial exploitation occurs when the person taking care of a senior takes advantage of the situation and begins taking control of the senior's wealth without permission or authority.  In my practice many families have contacted me regarding a caretaker that has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from a vulnerable senior.  The caretaker is commonly a family member, but can also be a hired home health care provider, a neighbor, a financial adviser, a family friend or other opportunist that comes into the senior's life and then realizes that the senior has substantial wealth, suffers from dementia or other memory problems, and no one is watching them or their finances closely.  In many of these situations, credit cards are used for the caretaker's benefit; bank accounts are drained or shifted into joint accounts allowing the caretaker greater access to money; beneficiary designations on stocks, CDs, retirement funds, and life insurance are changed; wills are changed; real property is sold and new property is purchased; and trusts are created.  In some situations the caretaker will even marry the senior to have better access to assets and inheritance rights.  Overall, a caretaker without oversight can often take control of a senior's wealth and leave a senior without their life savings.

In extreme cases, I have spoken to several families that claim a caretaker isolated the senior from family and friends, took the senior's wealth, and then placed the senior in a nursing home or kept the senior heavily medicated and locked up.  In some situations after the senior's wealth was transferred, the senior died under mysterious circumstances.    

Many acts of financial fraud, financial elder abuse, and financial exploitation of the elderly are committed by family members and caretakers that have moved in and take over the senior's finances.  While some of these financial transfers are authorized by the elderly person, many are not.  In some situations there is clear fraud and exploitation, while in other situations it can be difficult to determine what actions are authorized and which are not.  Communication between the senior's friends and family are often the best protection for seniors, but many seniors are hesitant to communicate regarding fraud and exploitation. 
Financial Advisers Often Have Access and Opportunity to Take Advantage of Seniors With Investment Fraud Schemes and Senior Financial Exploitation

The Department of Justice has warned that the country's recession has resulted in an unprecedented rise in investment fraud schemes.  Many of these investment fraud schemes have been aimed at wealthy seniors who are often easy targets with substantial wealth.  Common investment schemes include selling seniors annuities, selling risky investments to seniors, and pushing Ponzi schemes to seniors.  Many of these schemes are pushed onto seniors by high pressure financial advisers working on commissions.

Other financial advisers take control of a senior's wealth and then begin to churn the investment to increase their commissions or even worse take the senior's wealth through false accounting statements and illegal transfers.  Financial adviser senior exploitation can also be hard to identify as many seniors will keep their investments a secret from those around them and can sometimes forget about investments or die without communicating the existence of an investment.

Many Seniors Will Need To Make Difficult Decisions Regarding Who To Trust and How To Protect Themselves and Their Wealth 
Many seniors that have worked hard during their lives to amass wealth are often reluctant to share information regarding their wealth or their health with those around them.  In fact, as many seniors age and begin to feel physically and mentally weaker, they will feel a need to protect this information even more strongly and many will become defensive of family, friends, or professionals that inquire about these topics.  This natural tendency to solely control wealth and health information, however, can create an environment where the senior is isolated and becomes an easy target for an opportunist to come into the senior's life and take advantage of the isolation.  For a growing number of seniors, they become vulnerable to physical, emotional, and financial abuse from caretakers, financial advisers, family members, and other opportunists in their later years.  

The decisions seniors make when they are younger and stronger will greatly impact what happens to them as they age, become weaker, and lose their memory.  However, planning for the future can be difficult as many seniors do not want to share financial or health information with those around them.  Further, sharing with the wrong person or failing to share this information can result in financial exploitation.  Recognizing who to trust is key to protecting yourself as you age, but this can be difficult and is often different for every senior and family facing these issues.

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