Elder Abuse, Neglect, & Financial Exploitation Litigation

Unfortunately, elder abuse is extremely common in Arizona and is becoming even more frequent. Elder abuse can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, financial exploitation, and/or neglect.

How does someone tell whether abuse/neglect is occurring? Often, the most telling sign is a change in the person’s overall behavior or habits, which may include depression, signs of being fearful, lack of eye contact, low self-esteem, change in eating habits, etc. The abused person may hesitate to talk openly or may look to the abuser for cues. The abused person may have injuries that are unexplained or inconsistent with the explanation given by them or the abusers. A vulnerable adult may be dependent on the abuser for their caregiving and other needs and is often afraid to report the neglect/abuse to authorities. Abusers may isolate their victims from close family members, friends, and other loved ones.

Financial exploitation is one of the most common types of elder abuse and can take many forms. For example, powers of attorney are often misused by the exploiter, who gains access to the vulnerable senior’s accounts and then steals the money from the accounts. Sometimes the exploiter convinces the vulnerable adult to add the exploiter to joint bank accounts and the exploiter uses the money for their own personal use or obtains a debit card on the account. Someone may unduly influence the senior to convey their home or an interest in their home to the exploiter. Someone could be taking the vulnerable adult to the bank to withdraw money or add them onto accounts as a joint owner or beneficiary. Someone could be writing checks and having the vulnerable adult sign them or the exploiter forges the vulnerable adult’s signature.

One of the most telling signs of financial exploitation is a significant change in the pattern of financial transactions on accounts. For example:

  • large withdrawals during a short period of time
  • frequent checks written to ‘cash’
  • ATM activity on an account owned by a homebound adult
  • payments to for items or services that are not for the vulnerable adult’s benefit, but solely for the exploiter’s benefit

 

The exploited person may exhibit confusion about money missing from their accounts and important bills may go unpaid.

Vulnerable seniors are also frequently scammed.

  • IRS scams: Scammers pose as IRS agents and falsely accuse seniors of owing back taxes and penalties in order to scam them
  • Sweepstakes/lottery scams: The scammer may call or send a postcard telling the senior that they won a prize, but to claim it, they have to buy something or pay money to get the prize

 

Who are the exploiters?

The exploiters can be virtually anyone.

  • Neighbors
  • Friends
  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Remote family members
  • Caregivers

 

Our office can provide assistance in ensuring the abuse is terminated and, in some cases, help with recovering assets from exploiters. This is most commonly done through appropriate trust administration if a trust has been done, or a conservatorship proceeding through the court. Other more creative options can also be explored. Contacting Adult Protective Services and/or law enforcement may also be appropriate under certain circumstances. If you suspect that a vulnerable adult is being abused, neglected, or financially exploited, contact our office to set an appointment to discuss your legal options.