Million-buck-cheque-1-1240470“One report estimates that one in 10 seniors have suffered financial abuse.”

You probably know that we’re more susceptible to making bad decisions as we get older and our brain ages. Recent studies show that highly intelligent retirees (even those with no signs of dementia) find it more difficult to distinguish safe investments from risky ones. The probability of dementia rises with age: only 7% of over 60-year-olds have dementia, while nearly 30% of those 85 or older suffer from it.

If you’re a senior or you have one in your life, it’s critical to know how to prevent abuse. The Kansas City Star provides some helpful ways to prevent abuse in its recent article, “Five ways to avoid elder financial abuse.”

Communication. Speak with your elderly loved ones on a regular basis to check in on their health and their activities. Remind them to maintain safe practices, like shredding receipts and account statements. You should also remind them to be cautious about opening unknown emails and that they should never give out their Social Security number or banking information online or on the phone. Keep open communication, so you can see if they’re showing any signs of confusion or mental decline.

Stay attentive. Know how your loved ones are spending time and their money. If they hire outside help, try to be involved in the hiring process and try to know their health care aides. In addition, take a look at their monthly or quarterly statements to identify any unusual, frequent, or large payments. If your loved one is showing signs of decline, ask if you can pay bills for them, so you’ll know what’s going on.

Create a system of checks and balances. Make sure that your senior has the proper estate planning documents in place that will let trusted family members help them as needed. If you have siblings or other family members, divide responsibilities and then swap responsibilities every few months.

Build professional relationships. Ask your senior to let you come to meetings with them, when visiting advisers like their estate planning attorney.

Streamline accounts. Conduct an inventory of their financial documents. This includes their life insurance and long-term care policies, bank accounts and investment accounts. Try to make your loved one’s finances more manageable and consolidate their accounts where possible, which will make it easier to spot any unusual withdrawals or transactions.

Despite taking these and other steps, financial fraud and elder abuse may happen in your family. Seek help from law enforcement and talk to an experienced elder law attorney.

Reference: The Kansas City Star (September 8, 2018) “Five ways to avoid elder financial abuse”

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