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Stopping abuse and advocating for our elder's financial wellbeing

Financial elder abuse cases are on the rise in California. The breadth of predatory practices is staggering. Victims come from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Perpetrators can be family members, trusted professionals, or large financial institutions. Understanding the history and breadth of the state’s elder abuse law is a vital first step for anyone looking to fight elder abuse in California. Lawyers at Van Dyke & Associates, APLC in San Diego have a successful track record in this area of law. We grasp the interconnection between the statute barring elder financial abuse and other legal disciplines, and we use that knowledge to help senior citizens obtain the legal remedies they deserve. 

Understanding Financial Elder Abuse

Whether it’s a neighbor who takes a Social Security check or an accountant who redirects funds from an older client to themselves, elder financial abuse is any type of fraud, theft or embezzlement that victimizes a senior. Often, the vulnerability of an elderly person will lead an unscrupulous party to trick them out of the funds they have earned over a lifetime of hard work. The victim might not even be aware that any problem exists, so if you suspect that someone is exploiting an elderly friend or relative for their own personal gain, you should seek help.

What are examples of Financial Elder Abuse?

Financial exploitation of older Americans takes many forms. Our tenacious litigators handle all types of claims in this area, including cases involving: 

·       People who take advantage of elderly family members, friends and neighbors 

·       Caregivers and nursing homes that prey on seniors who require assistance 

·       Financial institutions and professionals that have access to older clients’ accounts and information 

·       Fraudulent telephone and online marketers who target elderly victims 

·       Individuals who misuse their power of attorney authority 

Many of the people and businesses that commit elder financial abuse have an existing relationship with their victims. This can make trying these cases complicated as the accused might claim that they actually were trying to serve an elderly person’s best interests. Even the victim might have sympathy for someone who mistreated them. This is why it is essential to retain a skilled attorney with experience winning these cases. 

The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA)? 

California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) is a strong tool to combat financial misconduct. The statute establishes a broad definition of abuse and prohibits a wide variety of conduct that is harmful to senior citizens or dependent adults. The statute exists to protect those who are at risk for “abuse, neglect, or abandonment.” The law defines infirm elderly persons and dependent adults as a disadvantaged class and offers a civil remedy because few instances of elder mistreatment are prosecuted criminally. As seniors often cannot assert their rights in these matters, the statute enables interested persons to engage attorneys on behalf of abused elderly persons and dependent adults. 

Common Elder Abuse Issues:

Elder Financial Abuse —

In California, elder financial abuse is the most common crime against seniors. We proudly seek justice for those who should be our community's most valued and respected citizens, our elders. 

Power of Attorney —

Our firm represents principals and agents-in-fact under the California Power of Attorney Law. 

Contested Conservatorships —

We represent clients in proceedings to establish conservatorships for persons alleged to lack capacity to care for themselves. 

Recent Cases:

Elder Financial Abuse Case (2018).
The firm recently prevailed in a case of Elder Financial Abuse tried in San Diego Superior Court. The case involved an 84 year old victim abused by her distant niece and nephew. The defendant wife and husband discovered the elder aunt had fallen in her home resulting in temporary brain bleeding and resulting cognitive impairment. The defendants obtained a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and and Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. Using both powers of attorney, the defendants proceeded to take care and custody of the elder plaintiff into their home in Bakersfield, California.

 

Once in the custody of the defendants, the San Diego primary residence of plaintiff was sold and the proceeds deposited into a joint bank account with the elder and defendants. Over the course of less than six weeks, the defendants misappropriated approximately $275,000 of sale proceeds for their own use and benefit. Ultimately, concerned family members suspected abuse and removed the abused elder from the care and custody of defendants. Finding the abused elder in the front yard of defendants with little more than her medication and a cashier’s check for $20,000, the family members engaged the firm to file suit to recover the misappropriated assets.

 

The firm, with the aid of a forensic expert witness, was able to trace the misappropriated assets into the personal accounts of the defendants which they used to fund an extraordinary lifestyle. At trial, the defendants, fearing criminal prosecution, asserted their 5th Amendment Rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify. The court found the actions of the defendants in violation of the Power of Attorney Law and Financial Elder Abuse Statutes and awarded all compensatory damages (approximately $275,000) and pursuant to Probate Code Section 859, double damages of approximately $550,000 for a total of approximately $825,000 in damages. In addition, the court awarded costs and attorneys fees to the elder plaintiff. 

Glossary of Essential Terms

Conservatorship—

In a conservatorship proceeding, a judge evaluates whether someone should be given the legal power to care for a family member or friend. Conservatorship of the Person makes the conservator responsible for the conservatee’s daily needs, including food, shelter, clothing, medical care and finances. Under a Conservatorship of the Estate, the conservator is authorized to take care of financial matters, such as making bank transactions and completing their tax return. The proceeding begins with the filing of a Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator, and the court can conduct an investigation to determine if the conservatorship is warranted.  

Financial Elder Abuse —

Whether it’s a neighbor who takes a Social Security check or an accountant who redirects funds from an older client to themselves, elder financial abuse is any type of fraud, theft or embezzlement that victimizes a senior. Often, the vulnerability of an elderly person will lead an unscrupulous party to trick them out of the funds they have earned over a lifetime of hard work. The victim might not even be aware that any problem exists, so if you suspect that someone is exploiting an elderly friend or relative for their own personal gain, you should seek help. 

Financial Elder Abuse  FAQs

What are examples of Financial Elder Abuse? 

Financial exploitation of older Americans takes many forms. Our tenacious litigators handle all types of claims in this area, including cases involving:      

  • People who take advantage of elderly family members, friends and neighbors    

  • Caregivers and nursing homes that prey on seniors who require assistance  

  • Financial institutions and professionals that have access to older clients’ accounts and information     

  • Fraudulent telephone and online marketers who target elderly victims    

  • Individuals who misuse their power of attorney authority

Many of the people and businesses that commit elder financial abuse have an existing relationship with their victims. This can make trying these cases complicated as the accused might claim that they actually were trying to serve an elderly person’s best interests. Even the victim might have sympathy for someone who mistreated them. This is why it is essential to retain a skilled attorney with experience winning these cases.

The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA)? 

California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) is a strong tool to combat financial misconduct. The statute establishes a broad definition of abuse and prohibits a wide variety of conduct that is harmful to senior citizens or dependent adults. The statute exists to protect those who are at risk for “abuse, neglect, or abandonment.” The law defines infirm elderly persons and dependent adults as a disadvantaged class and offers a civil remedy because few instances of elder mistreatment are prosecuted criminally. As seniors often cannot assert their rights in these matters, the statute enables interested persons to engage attorneys on behalf of abused elderly persons and dependent adults.