In most situations, when a loved one dies and their will is submitted to probate, the will is found to be valid with few concerns. However, in some cases, some of the provisions of the will or the contents of the estate may raise concerns. One concern may be that the deceased individual was the victim of financial elder abuse.
What Is Financial Elder Abuse?
Financial elder abuse occurs when a person uses fraud, coercion, or other tactics to wrongfully obtain money or property from an elderly individual. According to a national statistics, such financial abuse of the elderly results in an estimated $3 billion of losses on an annual basis, not including cases that were not reported or discovered. Furthermore, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) indicates that instances of financial elder abuse are reported more often than other types of elder abuse, including neglect or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Financial elder abuse can take many forms and can be conducted by a family member, caregiver, neighbor, anyone else who can get close to the individual, or even a complete stranger. Some examples of financial elder abuse include the following:
- Using or taking property or money without permission
- Using deception or scams to convince the individual to hand over money or property (“cons”)
- Withholding food, medication, or other necessities unless the individual turns over money or property
- Using coercion or undue influence to convince the person to sign over a property deed to the abuser, to make the abuser power of attorney, or to change their will to benefit the abuser
When determining whether financial elder abuse occurred, the courts will consider many different factors, including:
- How vulnerable was the alleged victim?
- How much apparent authority did the alleged abuser have over the victim?
- What were the specific tactics used or actions taken by the abuser, including deception, neglect, intimidation, affection, or other forms of coercion?
- Were any gifts or will amendments appropriate given the relationship of the individuals involved?
- What economic consequences resulted from the wrongful actions?
Each case is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the individual accused of the financial elder abuse will have the opportunity to defend against the allegations and demonstrate the legitimacy of their acquisitions. For these reasons, it is imperative to be represented by an experienced probate attorney in any case involving allegations of financial elder abuse.
Discuss Your Concerns with a Skilled Probate Attorney Today
If you suspect that your loved one was the victim of financial elder abuse or any other type of undue influence that affected their estate, you should not delay discussing your case with an experienced probate attorney. A dedicated probate lawyer, like an estate attorney in O’Fallon, MO, will be able to advise you of your legal options and rights, including bringing a will contest or another legal claim before the probate court. Proving financial elder abuse, especially after the victim has passed away, can be very difficult. However, such financial abuse can substantially harm the estate and the beneficiaries thereof and you deserve to hold the financial abuser liable for their actions.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Legacy Law Center for their insight into estate law.