Posted By Irene C. Olszewski, Esq. on March 16, 2010
I was reminded this week that it’s better to be proactive than reactive. Especially when it comes to your elderly loved ones, friends or neighbors. Often, as people age, they entrust their personal affairs to a family member or close friend whom they believe they can trust. Sometimes they sign a Power of Attorney, allowing the trusted person to manage their financial affairs and access their bank accounts or investments. They may ask someone to serve as their representative/payee for purposes of obtaining and managing their social security benefits.
I often hear stories of elderly people who sign over their home to a family member in order to “protect” it. I’m not saying that every incidence of such a transfer is done by slight of hand on the part of the so-called trusted family member — but it does happen. Sometimes, the elderly person is coerced into doing it. Or they are lied to.
If an elderly person in your life has given up control of their financial and/or personal decisions to a family member or friend and you suspect that something isn’t quite right, I urge you to speak up sooner rather than later. If that elderly person has expressed concern to you over the way their affairs are being handled — or if they are confused over what the person handling their finances is doing with their money, that should raise an alarm.
I am not suggesting hysteria here, so please don’t get me wrong. But if you see something that just isn’t right, protect that elderly person and make a call. You might call the Protective Services for the Elderly unit of the Department of Social Services. They will begin an investigation. Or if you believe some serious financial abuse has occurred, such as an elderly person signing over their interest in their home to another person and you believe they don’t understand the nature of having signed a quit claim deed, you might contact an attorney. Whatever the circumstance, if you have a bad feeling about something that has to do with your elderly loved one, friend or neighbor, don’t wait until it’s too late. Seek professional assistance before the situation worsens.