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What is financial exploitation of the elderly?

We have seen an increase in probate cases involving aging adults who are taken advantage of by people they know, trust, and love. Family members often discover, too late, that their parents or grandparents have been preyed upon by a caregiver or new “friend.” Senior citizens are often isolated and lonely; thus, they are more vulnerable to thieves who lavish them with attention. Moreover, at least of third of people aged 85 and over suffer from some form of dementia. Researchers have found that financial judgment may be the first type of judgment to deteriorate. Yet the deterioration of financial judgment is difficult to notice during the initial stages of dementia.

In November 2014, the United States Department of Justice issued a report detailing violent and non-violent crimes against the elderly between 2003 and 2013. The results and findings in this report are disturbing. While violent crimes and property crimes against the elderly has decreased, 2.1 million persons over 65 were victims of identity theft in 2012. Only 32% of elderly victims of theft actually report the crimes committed against them to police.

As a result, crimes against the elderly and financial abuse of elderly persons go unnoticed, continuing for many years. Money is taken at a slow rate from savings or retirement funds so as not to draw attention to the theft and exploitation. The predator is a family member, a caregiver, or a close friend who holds a position of trust with the elderly individual. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 5 million persons over 65 are victimized to some extent by a caregiver, friend, lawyer, family member or financial advisor. Yet, the exploitation is often treated as a private matter and dismissed with little or no criminal penalty. The matters, if they are addressed at all, must be handled in civil court. Unfortunately, many older people are also reluctant to pursue legal remedies against their friends and relatives. They may feel ashamed, embarrassed, and guilty.

The attorneys at Hays Firm, LLC have immense experience with the Illinois Probate Act. We have engaged in will contest disputes on both sides of the litigation. We represent heirs who are attacking a will. We also have cases in which we argue that the will executed was a valid expression of the elderly person’s wishes.

Financial abuse of the elderly is on the rise. To protect yourself and your elderly loved ones become educated in the risks and the red flags. Speak to an attorney to set up a plan. If you suspect that your loved one is being exploited, contact your attorney immediately so that any abuse may be discovered and recovered.

Andrew Hays and his legal team at Hays Firm LLC in Chicago are knowledgeable attorneys who have a great deal of experience with advising family members and acting to protect the rights of their elderly loved ones.  Please contact us to talk about how we can help.