Elder Abuse and Estate Planning
The realities of aging can bring a variety of challenges in long term care planning. The decline of physical abilities and the visible effects of aging are commonly recognized.
What can be equaling damaging to an aging loved one is the abuse that can occur in situations of loss of mental acuity and the emotional vulnerability that older people sometimes experience.
"Friends" Defrauding the Elderly
More and more older people are becoming victims of abuse and fraud by people who claim to be their “friends” but are actually thieves and scammers. In these unfortunate instances, people are being robbed of their hard-earned property and thereby their children are having their rightful inheritances stolen out from under them. Too often, no one notices this abuse until it is too late.
What we see in our practice is when an older loved one has died and children come to us
to report that the deceased “gave” away their property before they died (unbeknownst to the
family) or left a supposed “will” that disinherited the children.
Scammers Preying on the Old and Vulnerable
Older people in our modern society can sometimes become isolated from their family and children. As the years pass, spouses and friends die and loneliness and depression can set in.
People in this situation find themselves vulnerable to the dishonesty of newfound “friends.” It is not uncommon for the elderly to be duped into transferring their property to these “friends.” Usually the family will never know about this until the person has died. This is a serious problem in North Carolina because children and family have no legal right to inherit from their parent/relative.
The Challenges of Legal Action in Elder Abuse Cases
So long as an adult has not been legally declared incompetent, they are free to dispose of their property during their lifetimes in any way, to anyone. It can be very difficult for an aggrieved family to be successful in legal action against these scammers to recover this property.
Another example of this kind of abuse is when an elderly, infirm person is duped or
forced to execute a will that disinherits his or her children/family. Signing a supposed “will” in the hospital, a “will” that excludes the person’s children, a “will” that was not prepared by an attorney, or a “will” that was prepared by or obtained by the beneficiary are all red flags.
Whether these so called “wills” are the result of the deceased person lacking the mental capacity to understand what they were doing, or the result of being forced or lied to by the person named as beneficiary – the result is that the rightful heirs are cheated out of their inheritance.
In North Carolina, the remedy for aggrieved families in this situation is a will caveat proceeding. Such litigations are expensive, stressful, time consuming and best avoided.
Prevent Elder Abuse From Happening to Your Family
A few ways to avoid this happening in your family are to:
- Talk with your parents or elderly loved ones. If they don’t have a professionally prepared will or estate plan, help them understand why that is important.
- Pay attention to any new people that show up in their lives.
- Be mindful of any other acquaintances that are suddenly showing a lot of interest/spending a lot time with them.
- If you think they need help with their affairs, discuss getting a power of attorney prepared.
These can be difficult and sensitive discussions, but they need to be had.
Contact a Estate Planning Lawyer Today
At The Doyle Law Offices, P.A. we have been helping families in Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest and surrounding areas prepare their
wills and estate plans for over 25 years. Let us help protect your loves ones from this kind of abuse and give them the peace of mind that comes from knowing their affairs are in good order and their families will be protected.