What is Elder Abuse and Exploitation?
Florida’s climate and benefits make it the perfect state to retire. While Florida law has a safeguard in place to prevent fraud and elder abuse, it is still prevalent and widespread. The elderly are rarely exploited by a stranger—unfortunately, it is usually a loved one or a caretaker that has gained the trust of that elderly person.
According to Florida statutes, elder abuse is defined as intentionally inflicting a physical or psychological injury on an elderly person, or encouraging an individual to commit an act that would result in the same outcome.
Per Florida statutes, elder exploitation is defined as misusing an elderly person’s money or property either by inappropriately taking or managing it, or failing to use their money to support their necessities.
Take note of these red flags if you feel a loved one may be exploited.
What Red Flags Do You Need to Look Out For?
Once elderly people become too old to write or get themselves to the bank, they add someone on their personal accounts to manage their finances. While this is very convenient, it allows for someone to start using that elderly person’s money for his or her own benefit.
An important reminder: When deciding to put someone on your bank account or execute a durable power of attorney, it is important to keep in mind you are consenting to that person having access to all of your finances. If they want to clear out your bank account and leave you with nothing, they are authorized, by you, to do so.
Red Flag #1
The elderly oftentimes have limited income and are easily approved for section 8, or low-income housing. There are many cases of caretakers who live with an elderly individual just to take advantage of their section 8 approval. These same caretakers do not take care of the elderly person’s necessities. They exploit them for their low-income housing or even their social security check from the government.
Red Flag #2
Another red flag is a sudden change or rush to prepare Estate Planning documents. There are people who feel appreciative of that certain son/daughter that goes above the rest to care for their parents or a caretaker that takes the place of children. More often than not, elderly people are being coerced into executed Estate Planning documents to benefit a single person and disinherit those who would traditionally be the heirs of someone’s estate.
Red Flag #3
There are sudden changes in your loved one’s bank accounts. This can mean that you notice an unexplained withdrawal or transfer of money to someone who is meant to be their caretaker or guardian. These amounts are typically quite large.
Similarly, you may notice that they unexpectedly transferred their property to a relative or someone outside the family. Family members or friends who were previously uninvolved with their care may suddenly have a claim on money or property.
Red Flag #4
Your loved one is receiving substandard care or has unpaid bills, despite the fact that they have plenty of financial resources. You may notice dehydration, malnutrition, poor living conditions, or poor personal hygiene. A caretaker or guardian may be neglecting their duty, and misusing your loved one’s funds.
Red Flag #5
Your loved one is suddenly withdrawn or reluctant to speak about financial matters.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself or Your Loved One?
The ideal situation would be to have a close knit family where everyone gets along and works together to take care of their parents or elderly relatives. Sadly, that is not typically the reality.
The legal remedies would be to make sure you go to an Estate Planning attorney to address all the needs of the elderly person and ensure the documents are properly executed so they are valid in a court of law. An experienced Estate Planning attorney will know exactly what needs to be done to validate those documents.
If an elderly person has executed a durable power of attorney and is being exploited as a result, a guardianship proceeding can help to investigate whether those documents were executed under duress or coercion and be invalidated by a court.
To speak to a skilled attorney today, call (305) 783-2495 or reach us online.