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What law protects the elderly from financial exploitation?

Illinois statute protects elderly individuals from those who seek to financially exploit them by coercing the elderly into amending their estate plans. This is an important statute because the elderly are often preyed upon by caregivers and other individuals who see them as an easy target. This exploitation can take many forms. However, a common form is one in which the exploiter establishes the trust of the elderly individual and then coerces them to amend their estate plan to provide a financial benefit to the exploiter.

What is financial exploitation?

The statute defines financial exploitation as:

(a) A person commits financial exploitation of an elderly person or a person with a disability when he or she stands in a position of trust or confidence with the elderly person or a person with a disability and he or she, knowingly and by deception or intimidation, obtains control over the property of an elderly person or a person with a disability or illegally uses the assets or resources of an elderly person or a person with a disability. 720 ILCS 5/17-56

An elderly person is defined as anyone over 60 years of age and the statute defines a “person with a disability” as someone who is impaired to the point where they cannot independently manage their own property or financial resources.

The statute further provides that:

The illegal use of the assets or resources of an elderly person or a person with a disability includes, but is not limited to, the misappropriation of those assets or resources by undue influence, breach of a fiduciary relationship, fraud, deception, extortion, or use of the assets or resources contrary to law.”

A person stands in a position of trust and confidence with an elderly person or person with a disability when he (i) is a parent, spouse, adult child or other relative by blood or marriage of the elderly person or person with a disability, (ii) is a joint tenant or tenant in common with the elderly person or person with a disability, (iii) has a legal or fiduciary relationship with the elderly person or person with a disability, (iv) is a financial planning or investment professional, or (v) is a paid or unpaid caregiver for the elderly person or person with a disability.

What is the remedy?

If a claimant is successful in proving that a defendant financially exploited an elderly or disabled individual, under 720 ILCS 5/17-56, the claimant is entitled to reimbursement for the attorneys fees spent as well as “treble damages.” Treble damages means an amount equal to three times the amount of actual damages suffered. In addition, the individual could also enter an Order declaring that the individual is disqualified from receiving any funds from the Decedent’s Estate or Trust.

Conclusion

If you believe that you or a loved one were excluded from a will or trust as a result of someone’s financial exploitation of an elderly individual and would like to discuss your rights and options for seeking damages, please contact us. The experienced Chicago estate litigation lawyers at Hays Firm LLC have helped many individuals through the process of challenging a will in order to ensure that their loved one’s true wishes were carried out. Please feel free to call us anytime to discuss how we can help.