Protecting Elder Law Clients: How to Recognize and Prevent Financial Exploitation

Protecting Elder Law Clients: How to Recognize and Prevent Financial Exploitation

One of the most heart-wrenching challenges faced by attorneys is the financial exploitation of elderly clients. 

Often hidden beneath the surface of normalcy, financial abuse in older adults can be a silent curse, stripping them of their dignity, security, and, sometimes, their life savings. Elder law attorneys are not just legal advisors; they are often the first line of defense against such exploitation.

As society ages, the need for legal professionals who are well-versed not only in the law but also in the subtleties of elderly care becomes increasingly crucial. 

Here, we aim to shed light on this issue, offering insights into the signs of financial exploitation, effective communication strategies with elderly clients, legal actions available, and the role of care management companies like Purview Life in providing holistic support.

Identifying Signs of Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation of older people is a multifaceted issue, often cloaked in subtlety and complexity. 

Elder law attorneys must be vigilant to recognize the signs, some of which take time to be apparent. Understanding these signs is the first step in safeguarding the interests and assets of elderly clients.

1. Changes in Financial Habits: An increased number of checks written to the same person or entity, frequent small withdrawals, sending donations when they are typically frugal, over-purchasing items on the internet, and paying unreasonable amounts for services can be red flags. These might indicate undue influence or manipulation.

2. Introduction of New Relationships: The sudden appearance of new friends, caregivers, relatives, or romantic interests who show an unusual interest in the elder’s finances deserves scrutiny. While possibly innocent, these relationships can sometimes be leveraged for financial gain.

3. Confusion Over Finances: If an elderly client expresses confusion about their funds, exhibits substantial changes in behavior when it comes to handling and viewing money, or changes in the power of attorney, or beneficiaries that don’t align with their long-standing intentions, it’s time to probe further.

4. Vulnerabilities to Exploitation: Elderly individuals who are isolated, in poor health, overly trusting due to age-associated brain changes, or dependent on others are at a higher risk of exploitation​​​​​​​​.

Elder law attorneys need to be particularly attentive to these signs. Often, the victims may not even realize they’re being exploited, or they might be too embarrassed or fearful to speak up.

Effective Communication with Elderly Clients

Effective communication is pivotal when working with elderly clients, especially in sensitive matters like financial exploitation.

Elder law attorneys must balance professionalism with empathy, ensuring clients feel comfortable and respected during conversations.

  • Approach with Respect and Empathy: Begin conversations by acknowledging the client’s wisdom and experiences. Use respectful language and show genuine concern for their well-being. This helps build trust, making it easier for clients to open up about sensitive financial matters. 
  • Active Listening: Pay close attention to what the client says and how they say it. Non-verbal cues, hesitations, or inconsistencies in their story can provide clues about their state of mind and potential exploitation. 
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encouraging clients to express themselves freely by asking open-ended questions can lead to revelations about their financial situation and any undue influence they might be under. 
  • Validate Their Feelings and Concerns: Acknowledge the client’s feelings and concerns. This validation can empower them to share more information and feel supported. 
  • Gather Evidence with Sensitivity: While it’s important to gather facts, it should be done with utmost sensitivity. Be patient and give the client the time they need to provide information. 
  • Educate and Empower: Provide clients with information about their rights and options. Empower them to make informed decisions and assure them of your support in safeguarding their interests.

Remember, many elderly clients might not immediately recognize financial abuse, or they may be reluctant to admit it. Creating a safe and non-judgmental environment is key to effective communication.

Legal Actions and Collaboration with Life Care Management Companies

When financial exploitation of the elderly is suspected or confirmed, elder law attorneys have a range of legal actions at their disposal. Collaborating with life care management companies, like Purview Life, can further enhance the support and protection provided to elderly clients.

1. Interventions:

  • Reporting to Authorities: Suspected financial abuse should be reported to Adult Protective Services (APS) for investigation. In cases of fraud or theft, law enforcement should also be involved. 
  • Court Actions: Attorneys may pursue legal actions such as conservatorships or guardianships to protect the client’s assets and well-being.
  • Review of Legal Documents: Examine wills, power of attorney documents, and other legal papers for signs of undue influence or changes made under suspicious circumstances.

2. Collaboration with Aging Care Management Companies:

  • Holistic Assessment: Companies like Purview Life can provide a comprehensive assessment of the client’s physical, mental, and social needs, offering a more complete picture of their situation. 
  • Expert Witness Testimony: Care management professionals can offer expert testimony regarding the client’s capacity and needs in legal proceedings. 
  • Ongoing Support: Beyond legal solutions, these companies can offer ongoing support, managing other care providers and ensuring the client’s well-being and safety.

3. Preventive Measures:

  • Education: Educate clients and their families about the risks of financial exploitation and ways to prevent it.
  • Regular Reviews: Encourage regular reviews of financial and legal documents with trusted family members or professionals.

The collaborative approach between elder law attorneys and care management companies ensures a comprehensive defense against financial exploitation, combining legal expertise with specialized care management.

Preventive Measures Against Financial Exploitation

Prevention is key in protecting older adults from financial exploitation. Elder law attorneys play a critical role in educating their clients and implementing strategies to minimize the risk of abuse.

Education and Awareness:

  • Inform Clients: Educate elderly clients and their families about common financial scams and exploitation tactics.
  • Promote Vigilance: Encourage clients to be vigilant about their finances, to recognize the signs of exploitation, and to report any suspicious activities.

Estate Planning and Legal Documentation:

  • Trusts and Wills: Assist clients in setting up trusts and wills, ensuring their financial wishes are legally documented and protected.

  • Power of Attorney: Advise clients on choosing a trustworthy power of attorney who can make decisions in their best interest if they become incapacitated.

Regular Financial Reviews:

  • Monitor Accounts: Encourage regular monitoring of bank and credit card statements for unusual transactions.

  • Involve Trusted Family Members: Suggest involving trusted family members in financial discussions to provide additional oversight and support.

Creating a Support Network:

  • Build a Team: Help clients build a team of trusted individuals, including family members, financial advisors, and life care managers, like Purview Life, to ensure comprehensive protection.

  • Regular Communication: Promote regular communication and social interaction to prevent isolation, which is a significant risk factor for exploitation.

By implementing these preventive measures, elder law attorneys can help protect their clients from potential financial harm and preserve their assets and dignity.

Contact Purview Life

As we have explored, the financial exploitation of older adults is a significant issue that requires diligence, expertise, and a compassionate approach. 

Elder law attorneys play a crucial role in identifying, addressing, and preventing such exploitation. However, this challenge is not one that attorneys need to face alone. Collaboration with specialized aging care management companies like Purview Life can provide a more holistic and practical approach to protecting the interests and well-being of elderly clients.

At Purview Life, we understand the complexities of aging care. We are committed to adding life to the years of aging adults. Our expertise in care management, combined with our legal insights, positions us uniquely to assist elder law attorneys in safeguarding their clients against financial exploitation. 

We offer comprehensive assessments, expert testimony, and ongoing support that complements the legal strategies employed by attorneys.