Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization of the United Nations. The goal of organizations created around communities is to bring awareness and understanding of the abuse and neglect of older people along with the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes that affect our elders.
As estate and wealth management legacy planning attorneys, we look for signs of elder financial abuse, including potential exploitation and scams. The need to assess capacity concerns can often arise in our client base. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia at death, and over six million of the growing elderly population are living with some age-related cognitive decline. This number is projected to balloon by 2050. Thus, every time we perform services for our clients, we determine client capacity to the best of our ability. It is not always easy because a person may sign a will or trust early in the day but lack the capacity later in the afternoon.
Capacity determinations also are guided by jurisdictions and can be scattered across various sources. Many attorneys defer to medical professionals, but this has drawbacks as well. A physician is unfamiliar with legal capacity and needs familiarity with the patient for correct diagnosis.
Adding a trusted contact on investment accounts is one way to help detect and even prevent financial exploitation. This provides another layer of safety and can be a family member, attorney, accountant, or third party that respects the investor’s privacy and understands the responsibility. Naming someone as a trusted contact does not give that person the authority to act on your behalf, execute transactions or engage in an account; that can be done only with financial power of attorney.