If you suspect elder abuse and the older person is at risk for immediate harm, dial 911.
If you are a concerned citizen and observe neglect or abuse of an elder you can contact Adult Protective Services, a division of the California Department of Social Services. In Contra Costa County, APS can be reached at 925-646-2854. In Alameda County, call APS at 1-866-225-5277.
If you are what is called a “mandated” reporter you are required by law to report any observation of elder abuse. What is a “mandated reporter”? Any supervisor or licensed staff of a private or public elder care facility, a member of the clergy, an employee of a county adult protective services agency or law enforcement agency, or anyone who has the responsibility, whether paid or unpaid, for the care or custody of an elder person.“Mandated reporters” are subject to both fines and prison terms for the failure to report incidents of abuse.
One of the most common risks for elders is financial abuse, which can take many forms. Consumer scams are the most well known, as elderly people are particularly vulnerable. You can report this type of fraud to local law enforcement, Adult Protective Services and the District Attorney’s office.
Financial abuse can also take place within a family, by a caregiver, or by an individual who is mandated to oversee the assets of the elder, such as a professional fiduciary. This type of financial abuse is often dealt with in the Probate courts, and often takes place within the context of a Conservatorship or Trust proceeding. At the Law Offices of Matthew Talbot, we specialize in litigating complex elder financial abuse cases.
What is elder financial abuse, specifically?
Elder Financial Abuse involves embezzlement, outright theft, or use of undue influence to obtain assets or funds from an elder or dependent adult.
There are many different ways elder financial abuse can occur. Charges involving financial abuse are serious in nature and can have severe consequences for the perpetrator if the abuse can be proven. Because of the complexity of most financial elder abuse cases, as well as the difficulty of definitively proving or disproving elder abuse in a court of law, parties are often forced to settle their case. This is where an experienced elder abuse attorney is essential. An attorney who specializes in financial elder abuse litigation can properly advise you of your options and negotiate the best possible settlement for your situation.
Examples of financial elder abuse include:
- Using undue influence (excessive persuasion of person with perceived power) to have an elder to sign Estate Planning documents such as a Power of Attorney, Will, or Trust.
- Use of undue influence to persuade an elder to sign deed or beneficiary agreements such as a Joint Tenancy deed, Payable on Death form for financial accounts, Transfer on Death deed for a home, or Life Insurance Policy.
While undue influence is typically exerted by a caregiver or family member, other common types of financial elder abuse may include outsiders:
The “Sweetheart Swindle” is when someone pursues an individual who is perhaps recently widowed, isolated, and vulnerable. They succeed in turning the elder against friends and family members, at which point they begin to ask for money, loans, or use of their credit card. One of my clients was able to get a conservatorship over his elderly father, after a woman entered his life and within a few months had him sign his home over.
Home Repair Fraud, Identity Theft, Investment/Securities Fraud, and Sweepstakes Scams are other all too common occurrences. These issues, however, are usually dealt with in the Civil Courts. Probate courts mainly deal with elder financial abuse that occurs at the hands of persons close to the victim.