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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Q: What is financial elder abuse?

When it comes to creating comprehensive New York or New Jersey estate plans for the elderly—or for those planning ahead for their golden years—there are many common concerns for baby boomers and their parents.

In addition to common estate planning tools such as a last will and testament and documents needed when planning for incapacity—such as powers of attorney, living wills—the elderly often need Medicaid planning. Without proper Medicaid planning, lifetime savings could be wiped out if long-term nursing home care becomes necessary. Proper Medicaid planning can shelter assets from the grasp of a nursing home, so they are available for spouses and future generations.

While Medicaid planning can bring peace of mind to those worried about the financial aspect while living in a nursing home, there are other worries associated with aging.

Financial Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is not only a big fear among our senior citizens and their adult children, but it’s also becoming an epidemic. Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, or financial in nature and can come at the hands of trusted family and friends, caretakers, fiduciaries and financial managers, and strangers.

Sobering statistics indicate that 15% of seniors have been victims of financial abuse with most victims knowing the perpetrator. According to the National Adult Protection Services Association, only 1 in 44 cases of financial elder abuse are reported.

The average amount of stolen sums is staggering:

  • Stranger scammers average $17,000
  • family-member theft is $42,000
  • non-family caregivers steal $58,000
  • average victims lose $34,000 while as many as 7% of victims lost over $100,000.

Senior citizens are vulnerable targets due to their loneliness, often compromised mental faculties and ignorance regarding financial matters. Plus, they are generally more trusting in nature.

What’s worse, seniors who realize they’ve been bilked may be too embarrassed to speak up. Depending on who stole from them, they may be hesitant to report it for fear that their shady loved ones would be prosecuted or their honest loved ones won’t let them continue living independently.

Not every senior has adult children or trusted family living nearby, but for those that do it is strongly encouraged to visit often and review the senior’s financial records and transactions for anything out of the ordinary. Keep track of their personal property and jewelry, charitable donations, and potentially unnecessary home repair for improvement bills. Look for red flags like changes to titles of property, added names to bank accounts, previously distant relatives or friends hovering, personal property vanishing, and more.

Contact Our New York or New Jersey Estate Planning Attorneys Today

A skilled elder law attorney can help prepare an estate plan that protects the elderly and decreases the chance of financial abuse.

If you need assistance with an initial estate plan, would like to modify an existing plan or suspect you or your loved one is a victim of elder abuse, the attorneys at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

From our offices in Staten Island, New York, and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all aspects of estate planning and estate administration.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.