It takes time and effort to plan an estate well and to ensure long-term financial well being. But, planning and preparation will not always prevent being taken advantage of. Even if it is not common, elder financial abuse is an unfortunate reality for some people. Recognizing the signs is the first step toward prevention.
There are many forms of elder abuse and all are illegal. Financial elder abuse occurs when a person (often a caregiver) misuses, withholds or steals a senior individual's property or resources. This type of elder abuse can come in many forms and that often makes it difficult to recognize, but some forms are more common than others.
The terms financial abuse or financial exploitation are used to broadly define different methods used to deprive senior citizens of their property. Some of the most common forms of financial elder abuse include,
· Stealing money - Some people will forge signatures on financial document, cash checks without the express permission of the account-holder, withdraw money from accounts, etc.
· Coercion - This often takes the form of people intimidating elders into signing documents that give away their ownership of their property.
· Confidence jobs - Also known as "cons," these often take the form of an elaborate scheme. The goal of the scheme is to somehow trick the elderly individual into sending away their money. Common cons include fake lottery tickets or calls for charitable donations.
· Manipulation - As some people age, their ability to remain fully present in a situation can diminish and sometimes people with take advantage of this to guide seniors through the process of giving away their assets when the senior does not fully understand what they are doing.
Reporting elder abuse
Citizens have a legal obligation to report abuse if they see it. If the person being abused is 65 years old or older, it is elder abuse. It should be noted that people who do report elder abuse are immune from any liability as long as they do so in good faith.
Penalties for elder abuse
Under Texas state law, elder abuse is a felony. Whether or not it is considered a first, second or third degree felony depends on certain factors regarding the severity and intentionality of the abuse, but any conviction of elder abuse will have serious consequences.
The Attorney General of Texas has a website that will be able to help answer basic questions regarding elder abuse, but it is no substitute for an experienced legal professional. If you or someone you know is dealing with some form of elder abuse, it is highly suggested that they seek out the services of an individual who specializes in this area of the law.