Seniors Protect Your Assets
You Earned Them
A few weeks ago, a reader asked me to write about ways seniors could protect their estates. In part, she said
I know of seniors who were attacked by ‘Guardians,’ ripped off by ‘assisted living facilities,’ and screwed by home health aides.
The National Council on Aging says, “Up to five million older Americans are abused yearly, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion.”
The financial protection of seniors is an important topic that includes legal considerations. I’m not a financial planner or a lawyer, so I can’t address the issues professionally. However, they are topics of concern for each individual and for those caring for loved ones, as I was.
Four related issues are financial elder abuse, legal and financial considerations, healthcare fraud, and online scams.
Elder Abuse is the abuse of someone 60+ years of age or a dependent adult. It can include physical, emotional, or financial abuse and neglect.
Any theft or embezzlement of money or property from an elder is a severe form of abuse that can leave people unable to provide for their needs. This video shows the length to which some people will go.
Dan managed our financial affairs, and I had a general sense of things.
However, I didn’t have sufficient knowledge regarding our legal or financial situation when I took on the responsibilities. I didn’t know where we stood, didn’t know what the insurance covered, or what the will said. So, in addition to the everyday caretaking stresses, I had to learn about and decide on many things, which - as you can imagine, added enormously to my anxiety.
The article, PaperWork, offers ideas if you find yourself in that position.
Dan worked with a financial planner for years, but during the dementia, he was sure they were cheating us. I found no reason to think so. The only issue we had was that, in his confusion, he sold a large amount of stock and then had to pay the taxes.
I continue to work with a financial planner - we communicate, and I check my accounts regularly. I also have a lawyer - our legal documents are in order.
I would choose a lawyer who is knowledgeable in elder legal issues.
There are sites for free legal services for seniors, but I would check them thoroughly before hiring them.
The NaviCore Solutions website says that
Financial abuse often goes hand in hand with other forms of abuse. The signs are not always obvious, and there are situations where victims are unaware others are manipulating them. One in five women and one in seven men have experienced financial abuse, which crosses all socio-economic groups, races, and education levels.
The United States Department of Justice has a website explaining elder abuse and elder financial exploitation statutes. You can check on the laws in your state.
I live in California. I looked at the California Dept. of Aging website. It says
Legal Services are available to assist older adults and adults with disabilities with a variety of legal problems about housing, consumer fraud, elder abuse, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, Medi-Cal, age discrimination, pensions, nursing homes, protective services, conservatorships, and other matters.
California Bar Foundation - Legal Issues & Resources for Seniors provides California-specific answers to frequently asked questions about finances, housing, employment, health care, estate planning, and many other vital issues.
Healthcare fraud affects individuals and businesses—causing tens of billions of dollars in yearly losses. It can raise health insurance premiums, expose you to unnecessary medical procedures, and increase taxes.
Medical providers, patients, and others can commit this fraud when they intentionally deceive the healthcare system to receive unlawful benefits or payments.
These scams come in different forms, including
Fraudulent certifications of home care or hospice patients
Paying kickbacks or anything of value to induce a referral
Fraudulent billing of healthcare services
Companies continually billing for non-compliant patients
Fraudulent patient assistance programs that run astray from CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) guidelines
I didn’t encounter any specific fraud throughout the healthcare system. However, I did wonder about the need for some medical procedures, and the memory care facility seemed to charge for everything - even hand cream.
I’ve written several articles about online scams targeting older adults. Take a look
Dan loved his phone. We repeatedly told him not to answer it unless he knew who was calling, but he couldn’t resist. He inadvertently “enrolled in” a new internet service. It took weeks to get that straightened out and to prove it was a scam.
In summary, my answer to the reader’s question is to
Have legal paperwork, such as wills and powers of attorney, in order.
Retain a financial planner and lawyer to advise you - if you can afford it.
Be knowledgeable about your finances.
As a family caregiver, my job could have been easier had I had more information and knew where vital paperwork was and what it covered.
The TapeWorm of American Economic Competitiveness “Rising healthcare costs are a chronic problem that has been only getting worse as time passes.” The article is written with a focus on business but the facts apply to individuals and families, as well and provides good information. This is a major issue for many.
When my Dad retired, in the 70’s, his company continued to pay for his and my mother’s healthcare costs and after he died they continued to pay for hers. That wouldn’t happen today.
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If you want to contribute to my work, consider donating to the Alzheimers Association. This link takes you to their website. The choice is yours.