The statistics are startling: nearly $3 billion is stolen from the elderly every year in this country. Up until financial abuse laws began making the rounds in recent years, many families found themselves held hostage to one family member who had the financial power of attorney and in some cases, medical powers of attorney, for an elderly loved one.
Fortunately, a NH elder law is leading the charge with a renewed focus on our state’s most vulnerable citizens. On January 1, 2015, a new law takes effect and will help protect the state’s elderly and disabled populations from financial exploitation. Among the law’s highlights, financial abuse of the elderly and those who are disabled or impaired is now a crime – even if it’s a family member who’s stealing from an elderly parent. It also eliminates some of the proverbial red tape for law enforcement and allows agencies to begin investigating immediately. No longer will families hear, “It’s a family matter. You should try to work it out within your family” from law enforcement and other government agencies; instead, families are empowered to play a proactive role with law enforcement.
Financial Elder Law
Susan Staples, a member of Governor Hassan’s elder financial abuse community response team, says this law is specifically targeting family members or other caregivers who are in close contact with loved ones on a daily basis versus the traditional stranger scam. She explains, “We’re concerned about exploitation by people they trust.” A full two-thirds of these crimes are committed by family members.
Penalties range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the amount of money diverted. The new law also requires anyone convicted to make full restitution.
Strong estate planning can make a big difference, as well. Many of our clients choose different trustworthy family members to handle different aspects of their daily life. For instance, Sally has a son and daughter, both of whom are married. Her daughter’s husband works in the financial sector while her daughter-in-law is a registered nurse. Some people would be hesitant to consider an in-law as a power of attorney, but Sally has a close family.
It wasn’t always that way. Along with the son and daughter, she also has a much older daughter who, at one time, handled all of her financial and medical affairs. Sally never realized what was going on until she asked her daughter-in-law to review her Medicare coverage. While these crimes were caught early enough to where she didn’t lose everything, you can imagine the weight of that burden knowing a son or daughter has stolen from you. Her eldest daughter has not been in contact with any member of her family since she was confronted three years ago. That’s the real tragedy: the devastation it causes in family dynamics.
If you’d like to learn more about putting protective mechanisms in place for your own estate planning efforts, contact our offices today.