The elderly are too often targets of unscrupulous individuals who may try to take an unsuspecting senior’s money. Seniors are especially vulnerable as they become less cognitively able and thus more dependent on other adults. Unfortunately, as an Orange County elder law lawyer, I can tell you that elder financial abuse is common in California. Here are some red flags to watch out for with your elderly relative:
New friends who aren’t peers. If someone new comes into your older loved one’s life, and they’re not a peer but somehow have really dazzled your relative, this may indicate someone who wants more than friendship. While it’s not impossible for seniors to make friends with people from all different walks of life, if your relative has a new friend who is significantly younger, or even from a different country, this may be a sign of someone targeting your relative.
Relatives who appear to have had a sudden windfall. If a senior’s relative who doesn’t normally have a lot of disposable income is spending more, or has recently purchased something lavish, this may be a sign of financial abuse. This is especially true if this relative has been known to be manipulative or has a history of borrowing money without returning it.
Suddenly unable to be balance a checkbook or manage finances. If your senior relative is competent and otherwise generally good at paying bills on time and managing his or her bank accounts, and then suddenly isn’t, it could be a sign of financial abuse, especially if checks appear to have been written, but the corresponding bills are consistently unpaid. Ask your senior relative to get check images from their bank to find out where the money went.
Checks or cash gone without explanation. Checks missing all together, people in your senior’s life writing checks to themselves, cash disappearing without corresponding receipts, and your senior relative consistently running out of cash may mean that someone else is wrongfully benefitting from your elderly loved one.
Sudden changes to a will or estate plan. If your loved one has recently changed a will or estate plan to either include a new person, or to give the bulk of the estate to one person in particular, this may be a sign of financial abuse. Note that it’s perfectly normal for an individual to leave everything to their spouse or even to disinherit a relative for cause. However, suddenly favoring one child, or one unrelated individual while leaving the others in the cold is abnormal, and may indicate that new beneficiary has undue influence over your senior relative.
What can you do? Unfortunately, if your relative is of sound mind, it’s up to them to recognize and stop the abuse. However, you can always seek the advice of an Orange County elder law lawyer to find out what the laws are and what you can do to protect your relative. The lawyer can advise you on how to protect your elderly relative and possibly recover any money wrongfully taken.