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Elder financial abuse can evolve into estate fraud

The elderly are often targets for financial fraud simply because they trust the wrong relative to handle their affairs.

Experts say that they've even seen cases of parents held hostage by their adult children. An adult child manages to get control of the parent (and his or her finances), but won't put the parent into a nursing home where he or she can get adequate medical care. That would mean giving up the parent's monthly benefit checks and liquidating their other assets.

Financial fraud can also continue after the victim dies.

Someone with a financial power of attorney and access to a relative's bank accounts may not want to stop dipping into the accounts once that relative passes away. That can lead to things like estate fraud, including forged wills and the abuse of fiduciary power.

For example, an estate administrator has recently brought allegations of conversion (a type of theft), the abuse of civil processes, negligence and fraud against the niece of a deceased Pennsylvania man and her attorney.

The administrator of his estate and other relatives believe that she financially abused the man while he was alive -- taking advantage of his deteriorating mental and physical health to move him into her home before he died. They believe she then forged the man's signature to papers allowing her to freely access his accounts -- which she did, to the tune of about $100,000 in a six-month period. She also transferred the title of his Mercedes Benz into her own name.

Earlier, the court declared the power of attorney papers she used when her uncle was alive to be defective and illegal and blocked her from accessing the accounts any further. She then produced a will and a deed -- seven months after her uncle's passing -- that conveniently named her as her uncle's only heir. Her attorney has also been accused of helping to perpetuate the fraud and improperly dragging the probate process to a halt.

As a result of the fraud, the estate's valid administrator is now suing the man's niece and her attorney for $1.25 million in damages.

It's hard to say how often fraud like this goes undetected. However, if you have any reason to suspect that your elderly relative is being financially abused or a fake will is being passed off as the real thing, contact an attorney right away.

Source: DOTHAN EAGLE, "Elderly residents often target of financial exploitation," Michelle W. Forehand, March 25, 2017

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