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What to do When Family Members are the Abusers

Published August 3, 2017 by Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC

Financial elder abuse is more likely to come from family members or caregivers than a scammer who promises to deliver millions. The latter is more dramatic, but the family or caregivers are just as harmful.

An all-too-common situation of one adult child trying to protect his elderly father from siblings and their spouses is described in a recent article, “To help elderly dad hold off mooching adult kids, call in the experts,” appearing in the Los Angeles Times.

The son is trying to get his father to move out of his house to a senior care facility. The father has adequate financial assets to cover these costs. However, the son’s two sisters’ husbands overspend and are in debt. They pressure his sisters to ask their dad for money for their mortgages, children, and credit card debt.

The sisters, in their 50s, are unwilling financially or otherwise to assist with their dad’s care. The son told them that the financial assistance can’t continue, because their dad will need his money to pay for his own care.

The family pressure on the dad is really elder financial abuse. It involves milking an elderly, sympathetic parent to the point of evaporating his own accounts. In this case, both sisters have children, so the dad feels for them and helps them out. The son, who is his primary care giver, is single with no children and is treated differently, struggling to make ends meet. This type of inequity and stress can split families apart. These family members may not see what they’re doing as abuse.

An Allianz Life Insurance Company survey found that the average victim lost $30,000 and one in 10 lost more than $100,000. Some family members believe they’re entitled to the money as an advance on a future inheritance. They also know that Dad won’t say no. Therefore, they keep pushing him for money, until it’s gone.

In this type of situation, the son and dad should visit with an elder law attorney to discuss ways the dad can be protected against predators. One option is for the dad to give his checkbook to the son. However, the son would then have to confront the brothers-in-law. The dad may also not be willing to give up control.

There are other options. One option is to hire a geriatric care professional who would be able to oversee the father’s health, as well as his financial and living situation. She or he would create a plan to help the father undertake the sale of his home in order to move into an appropriate residence. A daily money manager could be hired to be in charge of personal finance and bookkeeping services.

Most estate planning attorneys are familiar with this scenario and have access to a wide network of professional geriatric resources to help the adult son navigate these tricky waters.

Reference: Los Angeles Times (July 2, 2017) “To help elderly dad hold off mooching adult kids, call in the experts.”

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