Trusts and Estates

Ca. Trs. & Estates Quarterly 2014, Volume 20, Issue 1

WHAT EVERY TRUSTS AND ESTATES PRACTITIONER NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE

By Vivian L. Thoreen, Esq., and David G. Knitter, Esq.*

I. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OF THE PROBLEM

As the population of seniors continues to grow, elder financial abuse is becoming a preferred vehicle to obtain wealth. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, persons 65 years of age and older comprised 13 percent of the population in 2008.1 The same group will make up nearly 20 percent of the population by 2030.2 A report by the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, concluded that "all lawyers, regardless of specialization, will likely find themselves working with people over 60, the age group usually dealt with only by trust and estate attorneys," as one of the results of this growth of older people.3

Unfortunately, with the increasing senior population, there has been a corresponding increase in reports of predatory relatives, neighbors, friends, cons, and crooks taking financial advantage of the elderly. Elder financial abuse takes many forms and often goes undetected. For every known case of elder financial abuse, it is estimated that four to five cases may go unreported.4 One study estimates that the illegal or improper use of an elderly person’s funds, property, or assets may have cost victims at least $2.6 billion in 2008.5

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