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Financial Exploitation

Do you suspect that someone you care about who is vulnerable and unable to protect themselves has been financially taken advantage of by a family member, friend, advisor, or caregiver? Sadly, it happens all too often. According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 10 Americans age 60+ have experienced elder abuse, or financial abuse by a trusted person the older adult relies upon for assistance. Every state has laws to protect older and vulnerable adults. A vulnerable adult does not have to be older but commonly is an older person. A vulnerable adult is a person who cannot protect his or herself from abuse because of physical or mental impairment. The person may or may not have capacity. Vulnerability is a set of circumstances both physical and environmental that leaves the person dependent on another with no option to change that dependence.

Common signs of financial abuse:

  •  use of a power of attorney for the agent’s or their family’s benefit, not the vulnerable person
  •  the vulnerable adult is persuaded to put the exploiters name on their bank account
  •  taking the vulnerable person to the bank to withdraw cash
  •  convincing the vulnerable person to authorize transfers to the exploiter’s account
  •  gifts to persons that are unusual and the vulnerable person would not have done before
  •  the exploiter isolates the vulnerable adult from family and friends
  •  the vulnerable adult feels as though they could not survive without the exploiter

Arizona has strong laws to protect vulnerable adults.

A.R.S. §46-456- Any person who is in a position of trust and confidence to a vulnerable adult shall use the vulnerable adult’s assets solely for the benefit of the vulnerable adult. This is very broad and does not only apply to power of attorney agents. Any person, including a spouse or adult child, must be careful to use a vulnerable assets only for their benefit. There only a couple of exceptions, a court gives approval for the transaction, the transaction is authorized in a valid financial power of attorney, the transaction is for the martial community or the transactions are for to obtain or maintain governments benefits.

For example, if an adult child is in a position of assisting an aging parent with their finances and that parent has dementia, the adult child should not buy their own child a car with their parent’s money or have the parent transfer their home or bank accounts into the adult child’s name.

The penalties for financially abusing a vulnerable adult are to pay or give back the money or property taken. The exploiter may also be responsible to pay double damages, attorneys fees and costs in addition to paying or giving back what the took. Finally, the exploiter may be disinherited. These penalties are imposed by a court after a case is proven against the exploiter. That can only happen if lawsuit is brought by the vulnerable adult, their conservator, or other interested person or the Personal Representative of the vulnerable adult’s Estate.

The legal options to stop exploitation depend on the individual factors of the vulnerable adult’s situation. If the person is still alive these are often contentious and painful family fights including upsetting the vulnerable adult. That person will be devastated to learn the person they trust has taken advantage of them and may not believe it at first. At Kile & Kupiszewski we have substantial experience handling financial exploitation whether the vulnerable adult is still living or if the person has passed. These are complex and emotional cases. Give us a call and we can meet to explain and answer your questions on the the legal options to protect your loved one or their estate.

Financial exploitation is an issue that causes fear and anger for everyone involved. It is a complex issue that involves determining the financial transactions, where the money went, how it was used and determining if the victim is a vulnerable adult. Kile & Kupiszewski law firm has successfully litigated and resolved numerous financial exploitation cases. Sadly, it is a significant part of our litigation practice. When you come in for a consultation an attorney experienced in the law and the practical aspects of financial exploitation we will help you explore all of your legal options. Call us today to schedule a consultation 480-348-1590.

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