Signs of Fiduciary or Financial Abuse
Last month we talked about who might be stealing Grandma’s money. Let’s continue that conversation by talking about warning signs to alert you that financial abuse could be happening. If your grandparents are not utilizing financial services for seniors, then they could be easily manipulated into giving up important financial details or significant portions of their retirement.
Let’s start with banking.
If you have access to the bank accounts, look for:
- Bank account charges and withdrawals that Grandma cannot explain.
- Bank statements that are going to a different address or missing checks in the envelope with the bank statement.
- Bills aren’t paid or eviction notices are present in the house even though Grandma should have enough money to pay them.
- Signatures on checks and other documents that do not look like Grandma’s signature.
Is Grandma’s lifestyle changing in ways described below?
- Grandma talks about money differently. She makes comments about not having money to do the things she wants to do.
- Grandma starts to buy things she can’t use such as a gym membership or a motorcycle.
- She has a new “friend” who is there a lot. She turns to the friend before she answers your questions as if she’s looking for approval.
- She has a new romantic relationship with someone she just met. Grandma starts to buy expensive presents for this person or their family members.
- Did she meet the person online? She could be falling for a scam called “catfishing” where a person is looking to tag along on someone else’s dime to get what they want. Promises of romance quickly escalate to requests for money.
- There is a new caregiver who objects to spending money on Grandma’s care.
- The caregiver offers Grandma personal care in exchange for jewelry, collectibles, art or other personal property or the property just starts to slowly disappear.
You may not have access to legal documents. Keep your eyes and ears open for mail, papers lying around or comments made that would indicate:
- Legal documents are suddenly changed including the trustee and beneficiaries of her trust and power of attorney.
- The title is changed on real estate, bank accounts, and investment accounts
Grandma is isolated from others. The family member living with her or the caregiver will not let anyone come to see her or talk to her on the phone. It’s easy to take financial advantage of Grandma if no one is watching.
If you see any signs of elder financial abuse, and there is an immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, consider contacting Adult Protective Services, or your local law enforcement agency. The Council on Aging also has programs to help.
The other route you can consider is to contact a private fiduciary, CPA, or an attorney. They can help you look at alternatives to the situation.
Financial abuse affects all economic, and cultural levels. Currently, there are at least two well-known names in the news (Stan Lee, of Marvel Comics, is one) that are being named as potential victims of financial elder abuse.
Our next three columns will be focused on elder abuse. Please keep your eyes out for the next installment.
By MARCIA CAMPBELL | Contributing columnist with THE PRESS ENTERPRISE
PUBLISHED: July 14, 2018 at 8:00 am | UPDATED: July 25, 2018 at 1:08 pm
Marcia L. Campbell, has worked as a CPA for over 25 years specializing in seniors, trusts, estates, court accountings and probate litigation support. You can reach her at Marcia@MCampbellCPA.com