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Estate planning: Cases of elder financial abuse on the rise

Anyone whose health and cognitive abilities have declined may be susceptible to financial abuse. Senior citizens in Colorado and elsewhere often experience reduced functioning as they age and, therefore, can be taken advantage of, often by people they love and trust. Experts are warning that instances of elder financial abuse are on the rise and will potentially worsen as the population ages. Those who do not have financial directives as part of estate planning may be vulnerable.

Cases of financial abuse of seniors have doubled in the last five years, with banks around the country reporting over 24,000 suspected cases - a rise of 15 percent. The National Adult Protective Services Association also believes that cases are under reported, as many victims may feel embarrassed or not realize anything has happened. While many scams that happen are perpetuated by people the senior does not know, the vast majority of instances of financial elder abuse are committed by someone the senior is related to or trusts. This can include the misuse of joint bank accounts, powers of attorney or checks and debit cards.

Fortunately, U.S banks and the federal government are fighting back. Many banks are providing employees with special training to recognize potential fraud or scams, as well as how to report these suspected instances to Adult Protective Services. Last year, the federal government signed the Senior Safe Act, which permits banks to report any suspicion of elder financial abuse without any risk of being sued as long as employees are trained correctly.

Those in Colorado who are concerned about their own finances or those of their loved ones may want to consider comprehensive estate planning. An experienced estate planning attorney can help create financial directives, a power of attorney, a will or other needed documentation. Doing so can provide peace of mind for a senior and his or her family during potentially troubling times.

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