The baby boomer generation is aging. Many have no one to appropriately care for them as their capacities diminish. They often become vulnerable due to age or illness. This makes them targets for the unscrupulous. Unfortunately, many times the unscrupulous individuals who prey upon the elderly turn out to be family members. By the time abuse happens, the victim has often become isolated and dependent. He or she cannot help themselves and a victim may not even recognize the situation as abusive.
So, what can you do to protect yourself while you are still able? Here are some thoughts:
- Don’t wait to make your plans. Act while you are still competent and active.
- Don’t give your money or property away by putting anyone on your bank accounts or your home as joint tenants. People often do this so a family member will be able to inherit without a probate, but it is a dangerous practice and exposes a person to theft by the joint tenant as well as to liability to the creditors of the joint tenant.
- Don’t let anyone hustle you. Develop a habit of automatically saying NO to anyone who solicits your business. We instruct our clients to tell all solicitors that they refuse to do business with anyone to contacts them.
- Hire good help. Instead of relying upon family members, assemble a financial team to assist you with your financial affairs and investments. This could be your CPA, your lawyer and your banker or other financial advisor. If help with paying bills is needed, your CPA can usually refer you to a bookkeeping service that will do this honestly and provide you with monthly reports.
- Avoid well-meaning family members. Family members, even if they are honest as most are, may not have the skills to manage your estate competently. If mistakes are made, your assets could be targeted by your “helper’s” divorcing spouse, unpaid creditor or bankruptcy trustee.
- Have your lawyer prepare a general durable power of attorney but appoint only someone that you trust completely. A person appointed as your attorney in fact has the power to steal from you.
- Have your lawyer draft a revocable living trust and appoint a professional trustee such as a bank trust department. Make sure all your assets are placed in the trust. This can give an elderly person a very high level of protection.
- Understand that there will come a time in your life when you will need help.
The lawyers at Platt and Westby, P.C. have been protecting the rights of families, individuals and the elderly for over 40 years. Contact any of our Phoenix Elder lawyers at 602-277-4441 or use the e-mail contact utility on our website at www.plattwestby.com to schedule a no-fee initial conference concerning any matter involving Elder Financial Abuse, Probate, Guardianship or Estate Planning. We will answer your questions and, where appropriate, suggest potential solutions.
Platt and Westby, P.C. has offices in Phoenix, Arrowhead, Avondale, Scottsdale and Gilbert, Arizona.