As an older adult, you’ve probably worked hard for years to build a solid financial foundation for you and your family. So now, protecting any money and property you have should be a priority.

You should, of course, be able to trust those around you to help you manage your affairs. However, the reality is that every older adult is vulnerable to financial abuse. And it’s crucial that you know the warning signs so you can protect yourself from exploitation.

At the May Firm, we see the devastating impact that elder abuse can have on victims and their loved ones. Our attorneys are here to help if you have concerns. Call to discuss your case for free – but in the meantime, here’s how you might avoid financial elder abuse in California.

What Is Financial Elder Abuse?

Financial abuse of any kind is a complex topic. Helpfully, we can turn to California’s elder financial abuse laws for more guidance.

For financial elder abuse in California, the statute we are most concerned with is the Welfare & Institutions Code. It contains what’s known as the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA).

More generally, the Code promotes the welfare of vulnerable individuals, including the elderly. It provides for public services and institutions to safeguard their interests. For our purposes, let’s consider how the Code defines financial abuse.

First, an “elder” is any individual aged 65 or over. Financial abuse of such individuals means mistreating, exploiting, or otherwise harming them financially. Such abuse can take various forms, including:

  • Wrongfully or fraudulently taking or obtaining property e.g. money, assets
  • Helping someone else take, steal, or obtain property from an elder
  • Pressuring or unduly influencing an elder to manage their assets in certain ways 

Essentially, any activity designed to wrongfully take money or assets away from an elder could be financial abuse. It’s a significant violation of trust and can happen to anyone. Most commonly, perpetrators are:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Nursing home staff
  • Home helps and carers

However, there’s no limit to who might exploit the elderly for financial gain.

Examples of Types of Financial Elder Abuse

Every situation is unique. However, here are some examples of what might be considered financial abuse.  

  • Using the person’s money, credit cards, or bank accounts without permission.
  • Stealing valuables or money from the individual.
  • Using false pretenses to have the individual give them power of attorney over their affairs.
  • Pretending the person has won a prize to get their financial details.

Financial abuse is often subtle, so it’s hard to spot. Any concerns should be raised with an elder abuse attorney who can explain whether there are grounds to investigate.

Financial elder abuse is just one type of elder abuse we see frequently. As described in the EADACPA, elder abuse can take at least three forms:

  • Financial abuse: The abuse of an elderly person for financial gain.
  • Deprivation: Depriving the elder of services or goods they need for their comfort and wellbeing.
  • Physical and mental abuse: Causing the elder pain and suffering through physical harm, neglect, or bullying tactics. This can also include isolating the person and shaming them in some way.

Warning Signs of Financial Elder Abuse

It’s natural for someone to feel embarrassed about admitting that they might be a financial abuse victim. This is especially true if the abuser is a close relative, family friend, or trusted caregiver.  

That’s why it’s so crucial to know the warning signs so you can act quickly if you’re worried. And if you think you may be at risk of financial abuse, it’s even more vital you know what to look out for. Warning signs include: 

  • A new friend or acquaintance appears. They have a keen interest in the person’s finances.
  • Valuables, personal property, or money goes missing without a reasonable explanation.
  • A friend or relative repeatedly tries to persuade the individual into naming them as a beneficiary in a will.
  • There’s a shift in spending habits, such as purchases made or spending frequency.
  • An unexplained inability to pay bills or manage financial responsibilities.
  • Someone close to the individual repeatedly asks for money or complains they need help.

Sometimes professionals commit financial abuse, too. Suspicious signatures or a reluctance to share financial information could be warning signs.

Proving Financial Elderly Abuse in California

The victims of financial elder abuse may be entitled to civil damages, or compensation, for their losses. They may also have a related criminal case, depending on the perpetrator’s actions.  

From a civil court perspective, you may file a lawsuit if you can prove exploitation. In other words, you need to show that:

  • The individual wrongfully benefited from the victim’s property
  • The person knew, or should have known, they were harming the victim
  • The victim suffered losses as a result

Our elderly abuse attorneys can explain how to prove a civil claim in more detail.

Time Limits for Elder Financial Abuse Civil Lawsuits

Do you suspect elderly financial abuse? You only have so long to act on your suspicions.

You must file a civil claim for financial elderly abuse within four years of discovering the abuse. Different time limits apply for other types of abuse claims. Contact the May Firm now to ensure you don’t run out of time to file a civil claim!

How to Report Elder Abuse in California

All suspected elder abuse should be reported to Adult Protective Services (APS). There are various forms to complete, and investigations can be complex. As such, it’s best to hire an experienced elder abuse attorney to help you through the process.

Don’t hesitate to call our elder abuse lawyers for advice on approaching your local APS. We’re here to assist in any way we can.

Protecting Yourself from Financial Elder Abuse in California

While it’s impossible to prevent all incidents of abuse, here’s what you can do to reduce your risk.

Concerned senior couple looking over estate planning documents outside on sunny day

1. Have an Estate Plan

An estate plan is a framework for deciding what happens to your estate when you pass away. It also helps you manage your assets while you’re still here. Estate plan documents include wills, trusts, and guardianships.

Having an estate plan lets you appoint people you trust to help manage your affairs. It gives you peace of mind knowing your wishes will be respected. And once you have an estate plan in place, make sure trusted relatives know about it.

Closeup of senior man adding signature to document with reassuring hand in background.

2. Protect Your Financial Information

Your financial information is priceless. It must be protected to keep your assets safe. 

  • If you need to write passwords down, lock them away somewhere. Do this for all critical financial documents.
  • Limit who you share any sensitive information with.
  • Don’t let anyone intimidate you into making financial decisions.
  • Ensure all caregivers and home helps are thoroughly screened and background checked.

And if an offer sounds too good to be true? Just remember – it probably is!

3. Build a Support Network

Elder financial abuse is devastating because it often involves someone you trust. But that’s why it’s crucial to have a support network around you. If you’re isolated, you’re more vulnerable to exploitation.

Look out for those around you, too. Especially those who may be at risk of isolation or psychological decline.

4. Monitor Your Accounts

When was the last time you reviewed a bank or credit card statement? If the answer is “not recently”, then look at your accounts. Get familiar with your income and expenditure and monitor for suspicious activity. Consider setting up alerts for unusual or large transactions.

Finally, report any concerns to your bank, credit card company, or other financial institution immediately.

5. Stay in Control

Of course, there’s a chance you will lose mental capacity to manage your own affairs. But while you’re independent, stay in control.

  • Know exactly what’s in every account you own. Understand what assets you have and what they’re worth.
  • Be familiar with the terms of every crucial legal document e.g. wills, powers of attorney.
  • Stay alert for signatures you don’t recall making.
  • Communicate your financial wishes clearly and firmly.
  • Never sign documents you don’t fully understand.

6. Report Concerns Immediately

You have intuition or “gut instinct” for a reason – listen to it! Let it be your guide. If you have concerns, no matter how trivial, get legal advice or call APS. The sooner you address the matter, the less harm can be done.

Are you worried about a vulnerable family member? We are glad to help – call to discuss your case for free.

Get a Free Consultation with a Financial Elder Abuse Attorney in California

At the May Firm, we value every member of our senior community here in California. We believe that elders and dependent adults should be cherished and protected. It’s our goal to hold anyone who abuses the elderly accountable for their actions. And we can help you and your family now.

If you suspect elder abuse, or you’re unsure how to protect your own interests, call us. Our elder abuse lawyers will do everything we can to provide reassurance so that you feel in control. We’ll also explain your legal rights and help you address concerns you may have.

Every initial meeting with our team is free. And we never charge anything unless we win your case. So, you have everything to gain but nothing to lose by making that first call to our offices!

Take the first step towards protecting your future. Call our elder abuse attorneys now or get started online and we’ll schedule a free case evaluation.