Over half of financial fraud victims in the U.S. are over the age of 70, reports an AARP study. Seniors Estate planning fraud is a type of crime that targets older people, often including fake companies that promise estate plans or Wills to unsuspecting seniors.
These are not tailored to people’s specific needs, not drafted by attorneys, and can involve unsigned or electronic Wills. This is a recipe for disaster that can result in huge financial losses as well as emotional stress. But there are other ways in which estate planning fraud can occur. In order to prevent it from targeting the senior in your life, here’s information about estate planning fraud as well as tips to combat it.
The most important thing to do to keep your senior loved one safe is to plan their estate with a reputable attorney. This prevents seniors from taking matters into their own hands, which can sometimes result in them being lured by scams. It’s also essential that seniors protect themselves against estate planning fraudsters by noticing common red flags. These include if the person who’s selling the estate planning doesn’t have credentials to show, or they demand the transfer of the senior’s assets.
Fraudsters tend to use scare tactics to persuade seniors to buy their services, so if the senior feels pressured to take action, this is usually a warning sign that something is not right or legal. It can be a good idea to tell the senior to inform you of any offers they get, such as from strangers who call them out of the blue and offer them Will-writing services, so that you can steer them away from scams.
Sometimes it’s not a stranger who tries to scam the deceased senior loved one but his or her own relative. If a relative is listed as an executor in probate, they can conveniently commit fraud because they have all the paperwork at hand. If there are problems in the family, such as disagreements between family members, or the person feels that the will isn’t satisfactory, then this can also spur them on to commit fraud.
As a relative of the senior who wants to respect their wishes, there are some ways you can check for fraud. One of the clearest signs is if there are sudden, unexplained changes made to the senior’s Will or strange withdrawals from their bank account. It’s also important to note any changes that have recently occurred in the senior’s life that could account for family members taking advantage of the senior. In such cases, the senior might accept help for planning their estate without realizing they’re handing it over to fraudulent hands. Therefore, being aware of the senior’s life changes, such as if they’ve recently experienced a divorce, and being more vigilant during that time can help to protect them and their assets.
If you suspect that there’s fraud surrounding the senior’s Will, request previous copies of the Will and find out who was a witness during the Will signing as you can try to get statements from them. It’s also important to find out information about where the Will was executed.
To prove that there was fraud, you must show that there was false representation with intent to draw up or change the Will in accordance with the scammer’s wishes. This process can be stressful and difficult, especially because fraud can sometimes be tough to prove, which is why consulting with an attorney can help you to explore the suspicion of fraud and protect your senior against its repercussions.
As with any type of fraud, it’s essential to be careful about who you trust. Sometimes, seniors are targets of fraud because they’re more vulnerable and dependent on those around them. As a senior’s loved one, it’s important to be aware of estate planning fraud so that you can ensure your loved ones remain safe.
by Jennifer Dawson