Economic abuse and fraud on the rise
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of financial abuse and fraud in our country, and much of it is aimed at individuals 50 and older.
Attorney Michael Hackard, the founder of a California law firm that focuses on estate and trust litigation, has self-published an informative, comprehensive book, The Wolf at the Door, now in paperback.
This book can be helpful to people with elderly relatives, as well as to financial planners advising families. Hackard tries to recommend when they should be considering the use of attorneys, and suggests a litigation strategy when elder abuse or fraud has been committed.
In one of the first chapters, Hackard reviews the five most common ways elder abuse occurs. Specifically, they are: caregiver abuse, financial exploitation, misuse of powers of attorney, isolation and freeze-outs, and unwarranted transfers.
He has handled many cases in which predators, posing as legitimate caregivers, took advantage of older individuals, resulting in physical and medical neglect, often coupled with embezzlement and theft.
Hackard has also seen many incidents in which a power of attorney has been misused at the end of an adult’s life to benefit the holder of the power of attorney.
How to prevent fraud
He suggests some of the ways family members and friends should be vigilant:
- Be very careful and take precaution when hiring caregivers;
- watch an elder’s bank accounts;
- watch for red flags, such as frequent trips to the bank;
- make sure that financial information is not hidden from the elder;
- review significant purchases from vendors and servicers, and
- be cautious about large withdrawals from a reverse mortgage.
If relatives are being prevented from contacting an elderly family member, he recommends that a lawyer familiar with elder abuse laws be contacted.
The book also recommends steps to take when elder financial abuse or fraud is suspected:
- financial oversight from a family member and/or financial professional at the elder’s bank;
- the use of a revocable trust;
- ongoing communication using interested parties such as attorneys, investment advisors and medical caregivers, and
- the use of “no-contact lists.”
Be aware of dementia
One chapter is devoted to specific issues and recommendations associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Almost 55% of Alzheimer’s sufferers and their caregivers are not told of the diagnosis. Accordingly, it is important that relatives maintain communication with medical caregivers to avoid this situation and prevent associated elder financial abuse.
An important chapter addresses when you should be working with an attorney, and how to find a qualified and experienced attorney with expertise in this field.
Also covered is the difference between working with an attorney on an hourly basis or a contingency basis. Hackard explains the situations in which working on a contingency basis makes sense.
In another chapter devoted to litigation strategy, Hackard emphasizes that, in litigation, “speed is your ally — delay is not your friend.”
He itemizes those reasons: There is a short time for permitting a challenge to a trust; trust assets may be diminished severely or disappear completely if you delay; delay in enforcing rights promptly may destroy an abused beneficiary’s rights; quick action with the appointment of a successor trustee may prevent further wrongdoing and the evaporation of an estate; and quick action allows for formal and informal discovery of known and unknown assets.
Another chapter is devoted to wrongdoing by trustees. Hackard discusses the types of issues he has faced in cases where he participated. It is clear from this chapter that, in this type of litigation, you need an attorney who has considerable experience regarding trust and estate issues.
If, after reading this book, you realize that you need an attorney to represent you in litigation, pick up Hackard’s most recent book, Alzheimer’s, Widowed Stepmothers & Estate Crimes: Cause, Action, and Response in Cases of Fractured Inheritance, Lost Inheritance and Disinheritance. This book contains many examples of specific litigation cases, and would be of primary interest to individuals who believe it is highly likely they will be hiring an attorney to represent them in litigation.
Elliot Raphaelson welcomes your questions and comments at email@example.com.
© 2019 Elliot Raphaelson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.