Ways to avoid financial elder abuse - preying on senior citizens

From The New Yorker article - (Professional guardians) - How the Elderly Lose their Rights

"In the United States, a million and a half adults are under the care of guardians, either family members or professionals, who control some two hundred and seventy-three billion dollars in assets, according to an auditor for the guardianship fraud program in Palm Beach County. Little is known about the outcome of these arrangements, because states do not keep complete figures on guardianship cases—statutes vary widely—and, in most jurisdictions, the court records are sealed. A Government Accountability report from 2010 said, “We could not locate a single Web site, federal agency, state or local entity, or any other organization that compiles comprehensive information on this issue.” A study published this year by the American Bar Association found that “an unknown number of adults languish under guardianship” when they no longer need it, or never did. The authors wrote that “guardianship is generally “permanent, leaving no way out—‘until death do us part…’ ”

“…Parks and other private guardians appeared to gravitate toward patients who had considerable assets. O’Malley described a 2010 case in which Parks, after receiving a tip from a social worker, began “cold-calling” rehabilitation centers, searching for a seventy-nine-year-old woman, Patricia Smoak, who had nearly seven hundred thousand dollars and no children. Parks finally found her, but Smoak’s physician wouldn’t sign a certificate of incapacity. “The doctor is not playing ball,” Parks wrote to her lawyer. She quickly found a different doctor to sign the certificate, and Norheim approved the guardianship…”

—Other than to give someone you absolutely trust a power of attorney, what are other ways to avoid this?


That’s totally crazy! It’s like the banks foreclosing on your house when you don’t have a mortgage (which also happened, but at least you can sue BofA for a pile of money eventually).

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There is a reason they look for people without any family. People tend to watch over their relatives. With that said, watch over YOUR relatives.

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I’d think a revocable living trust agreement should prevent the possibility of unwanted guardianship. At that point you have no assets for a court appointed guardian to go after anyway since your assets are owned by the trust under the control of your designated trustee.

Of course, you have to rely on your trustee to handle things in your best interest. But that’s probably a safer gamble than a court-appointed vulture.

Plus the living trust has some nice probate-bypassing features for your estate.

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Several more articles and discussion elsewhere. Briefly, having your own POA given to a trusted family member (and a family that’s not contesting that choice) seems to be a good defensive measure.