This May, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched an initiative aimed at prosecuting abuse of elderly Ohioans. This initiative comes as no surprise, as the incidence of financial exploitation of the elderly is becoming more prevalent. In fact, WHP litigators and estate planners recently undertook a complex matter to secure an emergency guardianship (and permanent guardianship) over an elderly individual who was isolated from his family and financially exploited. That matter was resolved successfully for the family, but many other cases do not end so well.
The effects of financial abuse can be devastating, both to the elderly individual and to his family members who are left to try and protect his well-being and recover stolen or wrongfully-diverted assets. The good news is that simple steps can be taken to reduce the risk of exploitation.
The most important safeguard for the elderly is an up-to-date estate plan consisting of a will, powers of attorney, and possibly a trust. These documents designate certain persons to serve as “agents” for the elderly individual who are vested with the authority to assist in financial and health care decision-making. Powers of attorney also typically nominate certain persons to serve as guardian for the elderly individual. Those nominated have priority to be appointed as guardian if the elderly person loses his or her competence. If your elderly loved ones do not have an up-to-date estate plan, they are providing an open door to financial exploitation.
Beyond ensuring that an estate plan has been prepared and is up-to-date, it is important to monitor the nature of the elderly person’s relationship with advisors, friends, neighbors, and other family members for signs of suspicion, particularly if the elderly person shows signs of forgetfulness or poor decision-making. If so, for the protection of the elderly person and her family, it may be necessary to consider seeking the appointment of a guardian. The estate planning attorneys at WHP are particularly adept in these matters, and are available to help.