Financial Elder Abuse
The kind of person who procures an estate plan of some sort through improper means (such as fraud or undue influence) is often the kind of person who, given the opportunity, will take advantage of an elder or a dependent adult while that person is still living.
Financial abuse of an elder or a dependent adult can take many forms. The perpetrator might exert undue influence, fraud or similar means to gain access to the elder’s bank accounts. The perpetrator might employ a power of attorney to transfer the elder’s assets to himself. The perpetrator might use the elder’s credit cards, steal valuable personal property or steal the elder’s income by intercepting checks or rental income. Increasingly the California Legislature has sought to catch and punish these perpetrators. The Welfare & Institutions Code contains statutory law that provides for awards of attorneys’ fees and punitive damages against those who take advantage of elders and dependent adults in this manner.
It is often the case that litigation involving a will, or a trust or some other kind of disputed inheritance will have an elder abuse component. If a perpetrator commits elder abuse while the elder is living, evidence of that abuse is highly probative of whether that same person employed improper means to procure documents that would cause the elder’s assets to pass to the perpetrator at the time of death.
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EVERY LEGAL ACTION HAS A DEADLINE BY WHICH THE ACTION MUST BE COMMENCED. Would-be clients are cautioned to consult with an attorney promptly—as soon as the client thinks he might need to prosecute or defend an action.