Representing the rights of beneficiaries and others that have suffered loss as a result of financial elder abuse
According to the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE), financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse that occurs in Canada. Generally speaking, “financial abuse” occurs when a person or party exploits the assets of another. This type of abuse can take many forms, but it invariably results in losses that can have a significant impact on a person’s estate. In some cases, the direct victim of the abuse sustains his or her own legal action while, in others, the beneficiaries of an estate with a present or future interest recognize that the abuse is taking place and file a claim.
The lawyers of McLarty Wolf are committed to helping people who have been negatively affected by financial elder abuse. To schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers, call our office today at 604-688-9542.
What Is Elder Financial Abuse?
The British Columbia Ministry of Justice defines elder financial abuse as:
“Financial and material abuse is the misuse, misappropriation, and/or exploitation of an older adult’s funds and assets without that person’s knowledge and/or full consent, or in the case of an older adult who is not mentally capable, not in that person’s best interests; or the misuse of an Enduring Power of Attorney. Examples include: use of an older adult’s money for purposes other than what was intended by the older adult, cashing pension or other cheques without authorization, forgery, purchasing expensive items with the older person’s money without that person’s knowledge or permission, or denying the older person access to his or her own funds or home.
Many assets acquired earlier in life, even modest homes, have greatly increased in value, making older adults a target for financial exploitation. It is believed that when the financial abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the victim, financial and emotional abuse are frequently linked. A common example is family members who do not wait for a death. They take over assets with the excuse that the current owner “doesn’t really need it” or under the pretense of safekeeping. In other situations, older people are pressured to share or give away assets and money and then left without the basic necessities of life. Financial abuse is a crime, some examples of Criminal Code offences include fraud, forgery, theft and extortion.”
Tips to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse in Vancouver
The Vancouver Foundation sets forth suggestions to assist senior citizens and their families in avoiding elder financial abuse.
- Personal Information: Limit the personal information (e.g., vacation plans) you put on the Internet as scammers troll sites like Facebook to gather personal information.
- Unexpected Callers: Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking for cash or assets.
- Emergency Requests: Verify any supposed emergency by calling friends and family before wiring money, making withdrawals or transferring assets.
- Secret Code: Create a secret code or password with family members that can be used to verify a true emergency.
What Makes a Person Vulnerable to Financial Elder Abuse?
Awareness of why a person may be vulnerable to financial elder abuse is the first step in preventing it from occurring. Canadians aged 55 and older constitute one of the fastest growing populations in the country. In the coming decades, it is projected that Canada’s population will continue to age considerably, with the proportion of Canadians aged 55 and older rising from 27% in 2011 to 35% in 2031. With a growing aging population in mind, it is important to understand why financial elder abuse can happen as it is likely to become an increasing problem.
The victims of financial elder abuse may be socially isolated, physically impaired, widowed, living alone, have health or cognitive problems or may not appear to be vulnerable in any way.
Examples of Financial Elder Abuse
The financial abuse of a senior can be very hard to spot, but is important for both family members and seniors themselves to be aware of common kinds of financial elder abuse. Some common examples of this type of elder abuse include the following:
- Fraudulent schemes
- Unauthorized changes to a will (or convincing that adult to sign a deed or will by using undue influence or dishonesty)
- Inappropriate use of power of attorney
- Exerting influence to pressure a senior to invest in a personal business
- Misappropriating a senior’s assets
- Not allowing a senior to make independent financial decisions
- Pressuring seniors to sign documents that he or she may not understand
- Using an older person’s property without their permission
- Making false statements or using dishonest acts to obtain the funds or assets of an older person including convincing the older adult to make purchases they do not want or need
The abuser is not always a stranger
Older adults many times know and trust the person that is abusing them. Financial elder abuse can arise out of an existing relationship of trust, relationships where there is an element of reliance, or from someone within a circle of closeness. Often times there is also a relationship of dependency between the abuser and the victim.
The perpetrator of elder financial abuse can be a stranger from the internet, a friend of the family, a health care provider or even a child, grandchild or spouse of the older adult. A family member may become involved in the financial abuse of their loved one for many different reasons:
- Financial problems caused by any number of factors including excessive debt or even substance abuse
- Feeling that they are “entitled” to money and/or assets if they will eventually inherit the asset at the time of the older adult’s passing
- Negative feelings toward the older adult or other family members
Protect Yourself From Elder Financial Abuse
The National Institute for the Care of the Elderly has suggestions to protect yourself from financial elder abuse including opening all of your mail personally and reviewing all bank account statements and credit card statements.
Family members of seniors should always be on the lookout for sudden changes in a senior’s financial situation. If you suspect financial elder abuse is taking place, contact your local authorities and a lawyer as soon as possible to find out about available legal solutions and governmental agencies such as the Public Guardian and Trustee that can assist.
Contact a BC financial elder abuse lawyer today to discuss your case
Individuals who believe that they or an estate of which they are a beneficiary has been affected by financial elder abuse should retain legal counsel as soon as possible. In many cases, the assistance of an lawyer can help recover assets that were lost due to the unscrupulous acts of others. The lawyers of McLarty Wolf are committed to helping people who have been victimized by financial elder abuse recover for their losses. To discuss your case with one of our lawyers, call our office today at 604-688-9542 or fill out our online contact form.