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Financial Elder Abuse: Legal Hazards in Caring for Elderly Relatives

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2016 | Trust Disputes

Buffington Law Firm’s litigation attorneys have considerable experience in dealing with cases involving allegations of financial elder abuse.  These are situations in which an elderly person, or someone with standing to represent the elderly person’s interest or estate, alleges a wrongful taking of an elder’s property. If a petitioner establishes a wrongful taking by the preponderance of the evidence, the claimant is entitled to enhanced remedies by recovering, in addition to actual damages, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.  [See generally Cal. Welfare & Institutions Code Sections 15657.5; 15610.30 et seq.]  For purposes of the statute, an “elder” is a California resident age 65 or older.  [Welf. & Inst. Code Sec. 15610.27].  

There is no question but that financial elder abuse is a serious problem in our society.  As people become of advanced age, as happens more and more, they often lose mental acuity and vigor and can become prey to those who seek to wrongfully take their property through improper means.  California law is very protective of elders in this kind of situation and provides broad remedies against those who commit such acts.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that perfectly innocent actions and intentions can result in credible, but untrue, allegations of elder abuse.  For example, an adult child of a very elderly parent may step forward and help his or her parents manage their money or assets.  This may involve becoming a joint check signer on the parents’ bank account, and becoming otherwise entangled in the elders’ financial affairs.  This is often done with the very best of intentions as one’s elderly parent or parents simply become unable to manage their financial affairs.  What happens sometimes is that distrustful or jealous family members bring a lawsuit against the person who was assisting or caring for the elderly family member.  This can, and usually does, put such person’s financial wherewithal in serious jeopardy.  In such a situation it is imperative that the defendant seek and receive prompt legal representation from a qualified law firm.

Buffington Law Firm’s litigation team has defended numerous cases in which family members have brought elder financial abuse lawsuits against their siblings in these kinds of situations.  Sometimes the elder, grateful for the help that one of their adult children rendered, may give gifts to such dutiful child.  Or the elder may write checks reimbursing expenses that the caring child incurred in caring for his or her parent.  These actions can be misconstrued in a lawsuit as undue influence and wrongful takings by the persons involved.  Needless to say, it is serious business to face such allegations in a courtroom.  

There are numerous things that can be done to avoid these situations while still giving care and help to one’s elderly loved ones.  If you are involved in one of these situations, you will require skilled legal representation.  We invite you to speak to one of Buffington Law Firm’s experienced elder abuse attorneys in a no-obligation free legal consultation.  In this meeting you will speak directly with a qualified attorney at no cost or obligation.