- What can I do if I suspect elder financial abuse but am not sure?
- What will happen to the person committing the abuse?
New Jersey’s Adult Protective Services (“APS”), a state agency tasked with investigating abuse and stabilizing a crisis, is tragically underfunded and understaffed. Most clients coming to our office with complaints about elder abuse have already tried to get help from APS. APS cannot handle every case and APS cannot do much if there is not an immediate crisis in a home or private facility. Therefore, many New Jersey seniors who are victims of elder abuse – especially financial elder abuse, which rarely appears to be a “crisis” in the eyes of APS – will simply never get the help they deserve.
In this office, we hear these accounts regularly. Sometimes it is a daughter who noticed her father’s caretaker quietly obtained a new car as a “gift.” Sometimes it is a caretaker who notices one of several siblings taking advantages the others do not know about. The elderly tend to be vulnerable especially when they are lacking social contact and family ties and they become isolated. As long as someone in the victim’s life is willing to step forward, there is a way to end these abuses and restore the victim’s peace and comfort.
A private attorney has many tools for curing elder abuse. In cases of financial abuse specifically, there are statutory authorities that can be deployed to freeze bank and brokerage accounts plus there are claims to file with the court, for example, to suspend a Power of Attorney, to restrain contact or to enforce positive visitation, to disgorge what the abuser took from the victim, or the imposition of a guardianship.
These and further options must all be weighed carefully – each case is different – in order for your attorney to craft a comprehensive solution.
This is what we do and we take pride in doing it well. Recently we handled a matter where the victim’s competence was borderline. He was being exploited by a younger caregiver who was demanding pay raises, bonuses, and “gifts” which the man felt helpless to pay. The family’s previous attorney wanted to “upgrade a POA” held by one of the victim’s children to a guardianship. The problem was that no one could say he was definitely incapacitated and no one wanted to subject him to a panel of examinations to determine that issue. We counseled the family through two additional options, both less severe than a guardianship: a voluntary conservatorship or a consented protective order. In the end, the victim and his family put an end to the abuse and did so without impairing any of his liberties or causing him any indignity.
If you are looking for additional details on this topic or if you require advice about your situation, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing or telephone consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
Written by Christopher Balioni, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright