When we talk about elder financial abuse, we often talk about things like telephone scams, internet scams and the like. These are important for family members to be aware of. The elderly, thanks to their high level of assets and relative inexperience with technology, often get targeted.
However, it’s also important to know that this abuse often comes directly from family members. They try to exploit their parents for their own gain. Not only does this hurt the parents, but it can also hurt the siblings, who get cut out of some of the inheritance that they deserved.
How it happens
This type of financial abuse looks different from one case to the next in Washington, but it often comes with manipulation. It could be as simple as a child repeatedly asking for small loans and emotionally manipulating a parent to keep giving them out. It could be as complex as getting a parent involved in an investment scheme or starting a new business.
The common theme is that children seek to use their parents’ money and assets for their own gain. Again, those hurt by these schemes may be their own siblings, which is why this often leads to estate disputes when the issue comes to light.
“Among family members, there’s an enormous sense of entitlement by people who feel like, ‘I’m going to get the money anyway [after mom or dad dies],’ ” one expert noted. “So they see themselves as ‘borrowing’ from their future inheritance.”
This is how people rationalize it, but that does not mean it’s right for them to do so. In some cases, it doesn’t even mean that what they’re doing is legal.
How common is it?
You often don’t hear about this type of abuse. It flies under the radar because families don’t like to talk about it or because the siblings hide it and the true extent of the issue does not get discovered. But it’s very common.
“At least one in 10 elders is exploited,” that same expert added. “It’s become so rampant, it’s an epidemic situation.”
People are living longer than they ever have thanks to advances in modern medicine. However, that means that heirs have to wait longer for their inheritances. If they have the attitude noted above — that the money is “theirs” already — then they may not want to wait. That can push them to do anything in their power to get their hands on that money.
What can you do?
If you find yourself involved in an estate dispute involving fraud or financial abuse, you need to know all of the legal options you have. These are very serious, complex cases, and you must approach them properly.