Elder Financial Abuse Involving Family Members
Elder abuse is a serious problem in the United States. While elder abuse is vastly understudied and underreported, we know that it occurs everywhere. While most people think of elder abuse taking place in nursing homes or other assisted living facilities, the abusers are commonly an elderly person’s family members. Under Georgia law, all of the following qualify as elder abuse:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional and psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
Understanding Elder Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is one of the most common types of abuse the elderly suffer from. Unfortunately, those responsible for this abuse are often those closest to the elderly person. Family members often have complete access to an elderly person’s finances.
Financial abuse and exploitation of the elderly can include an array of behaviors. This can include stealing money, making fraudulent financial transactions, and deception. Elder financial abuse can also include what the law called “undue influence,” such as coercing an elderly to sign documents such as wills and power of attorney documents.
It is estimated that between one and two million Americans over the age of 65 have been injured, exploited, or mistreated by someone they depend on for care and protection. However, only one in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported.
Elder Financial Abuse Can Be Harder To Detect
Elder financial abuse may not be discovered right away, especially if a family member is involved. In many cases, the elderly victim may not realize they have been taken advantage of. Even if they suspect their family member is stealing from or manipulating them, they may not want to believe that the abuse has taken place. Other family members may be slow to respond to suspected elder abuse when a family member is involved for the same reason.
Just because elder financial abuse happens at the hand of a family member does not make it okay. There are various signs that family members and friends may be able to look out for to detect that financial abuse is taking place. This includes:
- Missing money of valuables
- Credit card charges the individual did not make
- Unusual activity in bank accounts
- Depleted bank accounts
- Legal documents (such as will or power of attorney) signed by a person who does not understand what they are signing
- Checks or documents signed when the person cannot write
- Signatures on checks that do not resemble the person’s signature
- Eviction notice arrives when a person thought they owned the house
- Unpaid bills (rent, utilities, taxes) when someone is supposed to be paying them for the person
- Distant or absent relatives suddenly reappearing in an elderly person’s life
You Should Contact an Attorney
If you suspect elder financial abuse, contact the bank immediately and let them know. You should contact Georgia’s Division of Aging Services as well as local law enforcement so they can begin an investigation. There are certain people in Georgia who are mandated reporters, meaning they must report suspected elder abuse or face penalties of their own. Mandated reporters include medical professionals, in-home healthcare professionals, employees of financial institutions, and more.
If you discover that an elderly person’s family member is committing elder financial abuse, Georgia law offers a remedy and can compel that person to compensate the victim for the abuse. A Georgia elder abuse attorney will investigate what happened and get to work on recovering the compensation the elderly person is entitled to. The person responsible for abuse may be held criminally liable for their actions, and they may be compelled to compensate the victim for what they have done.