What is Financial Exploitation?
According to Missouri law, “a person commits the offense of financial exploitation of an elderly person with a disability if such person knowingly obtains control over the property of the elderly person or person with a disability with the intent to permanently deprive of the use, benefit or possession of his or her property thereby benefiting the offender or detrimentally affecting the elderly person…”
Though it’s not something any of us want to think about, our elderly are susceptible to financial exploitation. There are laws in place to protect our elderly population, and Missouri takes this crime very seriously.
Do you suspect that your elderly loved one may be experiencing financial exploitation? Read on to learn more about how you can prevent it or put a stop to it.
Examples of Financial Exploitation
One of the most common examples is an elderly adult trusting a friend or family member as their caregiver. That caregiver begins to make unauthorized transactions from the elderly adult’s accounts to keep for themselves.
Elders can be intentionally overcharged for services rendered or charged for services they never received, and the offender pockets the money.
An elderly adult may enter into a contract with their caregiver due to trusting their judgment and not fully understanding what it means, allowing the offender more access to funds that are not theirs.
Elders may sign over Power of Attorney or other financial allowances to a caregiver, giving them full access to things such as signing or amending a will.
Missourians Stopping Adult Financial Exploitation
The Missouri Department of Health and Human Senior Services has created a program to help prevent or stop financial exploitation in our senior community. The program, called Missourians Stopping Adult Financial Exploitation or MOSAFE, aims to educate both individuals and employees of financial institutions on the signs associated with financial exploitation so they can more easily detect and stop exploitation from happening.
The program has designed training kits for financial institutions to share with their employees and a training kit for individuals, professionals, or the general public so they can be aware and look for signs.
Those who can benefit from this training also include financial professionals and attorneys who aid in helping families create or change their estate plans or other financial documents, allowing them to understand the signs and help stop the activity.
Why Are Our Elderly Population So Susceptible to Financial Exploitation?
Several reasons make our elderly population vulnerable to exploitation.
The elderly adult may not understand our evolving technology and how to navigate it, making it easier to confuse them and have them sign information electronically.
Seniors may choose a caregiver they trust, giving them full access to their funds, not realizing that the caregiver they chose isn’t trustworthy or is using them for access to their funds.
Cognitive disabilities may exist, such as Alzheimer’s or other impairments, making it much easier to coerce them into making financial decisions that are not in their best interest.
Some seniors aren’t aware of what their property and other assets are worth and may have limited knowledge of financial documents or how trusts and wills work.
Vulnerability of seniors can occur due to loneliness, emotional turmoil due to the loss of a spouse or other loved ones, isolation, and more.
What Can I Do if I Suspect My Elderly Loved One is Being Financially Exploited?
In the short term, you can document your suspicions, try to obtain access to financial documents that may help create a clear picture of misused funds or charges, and more. You can also report your suspicions to the police, call the Missouri Adult Abuse and Neglect hotline, or contact your trusted estate planning attorney for further guidance.
In the long term, you can proactively combat the vulnerabilities that your elderly loved one may experience by ensuring they have a strong estate plan. Strong and comprehensive estate plans can include things like a trust where assets can be better protected or a wide range of financial documents such as Power of Attorney paperwork that can be created before your loved one becomes elderly to ensure they still have a total capacity to understand what needs to be protected and what their options are.
What Are the Penalties For Financial Exploitation?
Financial exploitation of an elderly person in Missouri can result in a class A misdemeanor, meaning the offender could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If the unrightfully taken property has a value of more than $50, the offender could face a felony charge. Depending on the value taken, if the charges result in a felony, the offender could face several years in prison, in the most severe cases resulting in up to thirty years or more in prison.
Protecting Those Most Vulnerable
Contact us today at (314) 347-3567 to discuss your concerns and learn how we can best assist you in helping to protect your elderly loved one. Whether it’s being proactive and discussing the best strategy to ensure they are protected before they become a senior with a comprehensive estate plan or expressing concerns or suspicions and wanting to pursue legal options against a caregiver you don’t trust, our firm is prepared to assist you and your loved ones.
Call today for your free consultation. Allow our partnership to help become an extension of your advocacy for those who may need it the most. We look forward to your call.