The elderly are among the most vulnerable to fraud from unscrupulous wrongdoers who see them as easy prey. This is the case for a variety of reasons. The elderly may be living on fixed incomes and might be anxious about their financial futures, leading them to invest in worthless or fraudulent enterprises. They may also be lonely and bored, which can make them more likely to hand over money to people who seem to show interest and spend time with them. Finally, a lack of understanding of contemporary trends and technologies combined with declining physical and mental faculties can make them especially susceptible to fraudsters looking to separate them from their money. As a family member of an elderly individual, however, there are steps you can take to help protect your family against fraud.
Create a Power of Attorney
With a power of attorney, you can work with an elderly family member to appoint someone (including yourself) to make decisions on the family member’s behalf regarding their finances and healthcare decisions. A power of attorney is a legal document, and you should work with an attorney to make sure the power of attorney (which can be made “durable” and thus continue to be effective should the elderly individual become incapacitated) spells out the various types of duties that you should assume on your family member’s behalf. These duties can include entering into financial transactions and having the ability to approve or make changes to trusts and wills, thus preventing others from having an undue influence on your family member.
Obtain Appointment as a Conservator or Guardian
When you or some other trustworthy individual is appointed as a conservator or guardian of an elderly family member, that person will have the ability to make financial decisions on behalf of the family member. The difference between this and a power of attorney is that a court is actually making the appointment, as opposed to it being a private agreement between you and the family member. Thus, even where the family member does not want to enter into a power of attorney relationship, the court can require this to occur if the family member is incapacitated (in which case the court would appoint a guardian) or disabled (in which case the court would appoint a conservator).
Make Sure Wills and Trusts are Updated
Finally, whether or not you enter into a power of attorney or are appointed as a conservator or guardian, you should always work with the elderly family member to make sure that any wills or trusts are updated. You may be surprised to find that your family member has changed his or her will to include a large gift to a new companion or caregiver with questionable intentions. Even if that is the case, you can generally work with the family member to further update the will or trust to make sure he or she is not being induced by fraudulent outside parties.
Talk to an Elder Law Attorney at The Law Store Today
The Law Store will work with you to determine the best strategy to protect seniors in your family from fraud. Our Free First AdviceTM program allows you to meet with one of our attorneys free of charge to discuss your situation, and we are open nights and weekends to better serve you. Book an appointment today by dropping by The Law Store, calling us, or scheduling a service online.