Oakland Elder Financial Abuse Lawyers
Representing Bay Area Clients in Highly Contested Cases
Unfortunately, elderly people are vulnerable to many different types of exploitation, including physical, emotional, and financial abuse. Some elderly individuals will have accrued significant savings throughout their lifetimes, and craven parties may see an opportunity to unlawfully take these accumulated funds and other valuable assets.
It can be especially disheartening to only learn your elderly loved one was subject to this type of exploitation after they have passed away. You may be wondering what your legal options are for holding bad faith actors accountable and recovering what was stolen.
Our Oakland elder financial abuse lawyers have been handling these types of cases for nearly 50 years. We are experienced probate litigators who can take aggressive legal action against perpetrators who harmed your elderly loved one. Our team at the Triay Law Office provides an unsurpassed level of personal service and will treat your case with the compassionate attention it deserves. We are also willing to take over a case if you are not satisfied with your current legal representation.
What Is Elder Financial Abuse?
Financial exploitation of the elderly occurs when someone illegally or inappropriately makes use or takes possession of an elderly person’s funds or property. This type of abuse can take one or a combination of several forms. Many perpetrators take advantage of elderly persons who lack the capacity to make rational decisions. They may also work to isolate an elderly target or use unspoken or outright threats to gain access to lucrative assets. In some situations, an elderly person will genuinely trust someone and give them unfettered access to their accounts.
Types of Elder Financial Abuse
Examples of elder financial abuse include:
- Withdrawing funds or cashing checks from an elderly individual’s bank or investment accounts is one of the most prominent examples of elder financial abuse. Forging signatures and outright theft are other common forms of exploitation.
- Abusers may attempt to estrange elderly persons from their friends and loved ones, causing their victims to become dependent on them. The longer exploitation goes on unchecked, the more entrenched an abuser tends to become.
- In California probate law, elder abuse can include exerting undue influence. When this occurs, a perpetrator of abuse pressures an elderly person into changing a will to benefit the person exerting the influence. In many cases, an elderly person’s original beneficiaries and heirs will not realize that the will has been modified until the testator has passed away.
To get a clearer idea of what elder financial abuse looks like in practice, consider an example scenario: An elderly person may live alone and be located a fair distance from their relatives. A perpetrator of financial elder abuse might see an opportunity in their isolation and move to befriend the elderly person. This may appear innocuous at first – perhaps the abuser offers to complete household chores or pick up supplies – but, at some point, they will exploit the elderly person’s comfort and ask for money. If they have access to the elderly person’s home, the abuser may even steal property without their knowledge. Eventually, they may even ask to be included in the elderly person’s will and other estate planning documents. When this new friendship is challenged, the perpetrator may work to further isolate the elderly person and encourage them to not trust their loved ones.
What Are the Signs of Elder Financial Abuse?
It is always best to address possible elder financial exploitation as quickly as possible. You must remain vigilant and look out for signs of potential abuse.
Some of the signs an elderly person may be a victim of financial exploitation include:
- A friend, relative, or caregiver attempts to isolate the elderly individual from their other friends and family
- A friend, relative, or caregiver receives an unusual quantity of checks or gifts from the elderly person
- The elderly person’s bills stop being paid on time
- The elderly person’s bank accounts experience unusual activity, such as unexplained and frequent transfers
- The elderly person lives in conditions that are significantly below their financial means
- The elderly person abruptly changes their will or transfers assets for unclear reasons
If you notice any of these warning signs, you will need to take decisive action. There are other steps you can take to help proactively limit the likelihood of exploitation.
To minimize the possibility of elder financial abuse, you can implement a number of preventative measures, such as:
- Staying in touch with your elderly friend or relative
- Maintaining close communication and facilitating frequent visits
- Hiring a professional accountant or attorney – who are bound by fiduciary duties – to handle financial affairs
If you suspect your elderly loved one is a victim of any kind of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, you should immediately contact the police and social services. Then, speak to our Oakland elder financial elder abuse attorneys as soon as possible.
What Can I Do about Elder Financial Abuse after the Victim Has Passed Away?
Many families sadly do not realize their elderly loved one was subject to abuse or neglect until after they have passed away. You may only learn the truth of the exploitation during the probate process.
When your elderly loved one writes a will, they will name a personal representative to oversee probate. In most cases, people will appoint a close family member or a legal professional. However, you may be surprised to find your loved one has chosen someone you are not especially familiar with. This may be the first sign of elder financial abuse, and you will likely need to contest the will to resolve the issue.
If you or another trusted relative is named as your elderly loved one’s personal representative, you may still discover signs of financial exploitation. In carrying out their responsibilities, the personal representative may find that many of the deceased’s most valuable assets are missing or other evidence of abusive conduct.
Recent changes to the will may also disproportionately benefit a possible abuser. Your elderly loved one may have been unduly influenced or threatened into modifying the will. If your loved one was subject to undue influence or was not mentally competent at the time of the changes, the new modifications will not be enforceable.
In any of these instances, probate litigation will likely be necessary. Our Oakland elder financial abuse lawyers understand how upsetting it can be to learn your vulnerable loved one was exploited. At the Triay Law Office, we are prepared to leverage the full extent of our firm’s resources to hold perpetrators responsible for misconduct. We can also work to recover misappropriated assets. Our compassionate team will walk you through your legal options and fervently protect your family’s interests in and out of the courtroom.
Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s last will and testament or according to intestate law. Certain trusts only go into effect upon the death of the testator, and may therefore be part of a probate administration. California probate courts oversee probate administration and probate litigation.
There are several different reasons for contesting a will. For example, claims of undue influence and lack of capacity are common causes for probate litigation. Some individuals may argue that the will is defective, or that the estate trustee is breaching a fiduciary duty. If you are an omitted spouse or if your spouse leaves you less than required by California law, you may have a claim against the estate as part of your spousal rights.
A fiduciary duty is the obligation to act honestly, fairly and in good faith when handling the deceased person’s estate. There are multiple fiduciary duties that executors, administrators and trustees are legally required to follow, including keeping proper accountings of all investments, as well as money going in and out of the trust or estate. Violation of this duty or poor performance in administrating the estate may result in legal action by the estate’s beneficiaries.
Just as in all types of civil litigation, the law allows you to represent yourself in a probate proceeding. However, we strongly advise having a seasoned probate litigation lawyer handle your case to ensure that California probate law upholds your best interests.
Even in death, a person is liable for their debts. For example, creditors may bring claims against a person’s estate after their death to receive payment.
A codicil is a document that makes small changes to the terms of a last will and testament. An individual may use codicils when they want to amend their last wishes without having to create an entirely new will. A codicil will only be legally valid and enforceable if executed in the same manner as a will. Codicils are particularly useful upon remarriage, additional children born, or new property acquired by an estate.
If a person dies without a will, then California intestacy laws will dictate the division of their estates to the heirs at law. These laws will then distribute property and assets depending on the marital status, number of children and surviving relatives of the deceased individual.
About Triay Law Office
Probate litigation attorney Charles Triay has specialized in California probate litigation matters for over 30 years.Read More
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