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Estate planning and the prevention of financial elder abuse

Elderly people, particularly those who are physically and/or mentally compromised, can be vulnerable to many types of abuse, including financial abuse. Sadly, this type of abuse often is perpetrated by family members, caregivers and others close to the person. Sometimes it comes at the hands of strangers who know that elderly people are more likely to fall for scams or give up confidential information over the phone or online.

Financial abuse can take many forms. If you have an elderly parent or loved one whom you believe could become a victim, it's important to keep an eye on his or her financial situation. If you don't have power of attorney or other legal control over their finances, you can still ask some important questions or do some research yourself. It's important to know:

-- Who is managing their daily expenses?-- Are their bills being paid?-- Is anyone else on their accounts?-- Has anyone asked them for access to their accounts, passwords or for a loan?-- Have they expressed concern about running out of money or about a financial decision?-- Has anyone asked to be added to their will or to have power of attorney, either for financial or health care decisions?

This last question is extremely important. Too often, people are tricked into changing their will or granting power of attorney to someone who doesn't have their best interests at heart. That's why it's important to be familiar with your loved one's estate plan. As people age, it's increasingly important to have a complete estate plan, including a will, a financial power of attorney, an advance health care directive and possibly a trust.

Just as you likely know your loved ones' health care providers and caregivers, you should know who their legal and financial professionals are. If you are their power of attorney, this is particularly crucial. You can help protect your loved ones by getting to know their estate planning attorney and any financial advisors. They can help you work to ensure that your loved ones don't become victims of financial abuse.

Source: Fidelity, "Prevent financial elder abuse," accessed June 06, 2016

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