Protecting Senior Finances With Estate Planning

It is highly recommended for the older person, that their estate planning documents be put in place as early as possible, in order to help guard against elder financial abuse. It is when the older person begins to show signs of a loss of mental capacity, that financial predators step in to take advantage of the older person. We have been seeing more and more of this lately, possibly because of a downturn in the economy.  

Older persons should consider preparing their estate plans right away, especially for instance, if there are beginning signs of dementia, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease or cancer, or if the older person has fallen. You will be able to pick who you know and trust as your health care agent and agent under your financial durable power of attorney while you still have good mental capacity.

If you are uncomfortable with appointing family members for these rolls, consider appointing a professional fiduciary. California has a rigid licensing program for professional fiduciaries, and they can be used in these positions in order to avoid financial abuse. Professionial fiduciaries are able to assist early on with bill paying and money management.

Unfortunately, the highest percentage of financial abuse and exploitation of the older person, involves the elder’s family members. Many times it is a child who has been dependent for support on the older parent. This child is usually unemployable, in financial straights, won’t work and many times has substance abuse problems. Many times they will badger their parent into giving them money. The parent gives in, just to get them off of his or her back. I have seen children who are completely exasperated that their parents are living so long! The children want their inheritance now, and don’t see why they should have to wait!

Other signs of elder financial abuse can include large bank withdrawals that the older person cannot explain, or a new friend or housekeeper gaining access to bank accounts. Another sign of problems is that bills are not being paid.

When the estate planning documents are being prepared, also consider asset protection and government benefits planning language to be included in the various documents. If the older person loses capacity, the asset protection plan can still be implemented.

Written Michael J. Young, lawyoung1@gmail.com, elder law attorney in Walnut Creek, CA. www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com mike@WalnutCreekElderLaw.com. 1931 San Miguel Dr., Suite 220, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. 925-256-0298. Mr. Young serves Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, Concord, Brentwood, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Clayton, etc.

This information is not to be taken as legal advice, and you are encouraged to see an elder law attorney for professional advice.

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