Nashville Elder Law: How to Help Your Older Loved Ones Avoid Fraud and Victimization- Part 2

Nashville Elder Law: How to Help Your Older Loved Ones Avoid Fraud and Victimization- Part 2

In part one of this series , we provided a general overview of the ways that seniors are preyed upon by scammers and those who would seek to gain control of the elderly person’s finances for their own benefit. However, in order to stop fraud, it’s important to know the specifics. The following post will walk you through questions to ask your loved one in order to discover if fraud or exploitation is occurring.  

1. Ask older loved ones about suspicious phone calls.

Swindlers often cold-call seniors to get personal information. Here are a few common scams your loved ones should be aware of:

  • Sweepstakes scams: An elder receives a call that they have “won” a sweepstakes and must provide bank account information for a direct deposit or send a check to pay taxes on their “winnings.”
  • Grandchild scams: An elder receives a call saying something like, “Grandma, it’s me… please don’t tell my parents.” The caller then claims they are out of town and need to be wired money to make bail, pay for travel expenses, etc.
  • Voter registration scams: Someone calls about registering the elder to vote, asking for their address, birthday, Social Security Number, or a password or PIN code.
  • Healthcare scams: An elder may get a call offering discounts on health insurance or a call from someone claiming they work for the government and need a Medicare number or Social Security Number to issue a new card.

Encourage your loved ones to never give out personal information to strangers (or even people claiming to be friends or loved ones) over the phone.

2. Talk with them about their finances.

It’s a wise idea to meet with the senior’s financial advisors, accountants, attorneys, and other advisors so those people know you and can potentially contact you if they believe something suspicious is going on.

But be careful: becoming too involved in a loved one’s financial life may create the appearance of undue influence. It is important to help keep loved ones from being exploited, but you also don’t want to find yourself the subject of a lawsuit claiming that you are the one committing financial exploitation.

3. Keep abreast of changes to their estate plan.

Check to see if a non-relative has been included as a representative or beneficiary, or if any relatives have been cut out of the estate plan since the last time you reviewed it. There may be perfectly reasonable explanations for these changes. However, they could also indicate that someone is trying to manipulate your loved one.

4. Ask about caretakers or sudden “best friends.”

Has a non-relative, long-time friend, or neighbor started spending a lot of time with your loved one? Do they suddenly have a new “best friend” or someone who takes care of them at home?

These developments could be a sign that someone is trying to work their way into an elder’s life in order to exploit them, financially or otherwise. It might seem innocent enough (and even generous!) for a new friend to “hang out” with an elder and to take care of their medical and financial needs. But because of the potential for abuse, we recommend hiring caregivers through a reputable agency. Obtain reviews and make sure they have the proper licensure and training.

Making new friends and meeting people is fine, and even encouraged to minimize isolation that many older adults face. However, it’s important to communicate with your loved one to make sure they are not giving un-vetted people undue control over their life.

5. Investigate sudden missing items or extravagant new purchases.

It is important to talk with your elderly loved ones about finances so that, if they consent, you can regularly review their statements and stay up to date on other financial developments.

Have there been any large cash transfers? Vehicles suddenly missing or new ones showing up unexpectedly? Heirloom household items that have disappeared? Fancy or expensive new gadgets showing up that are out of character for your loved one? This can indicate that someone has convinced the elder to give them assets or that they have duped the elder into buying something they don’t need.

A strong estate plan can help prevent elder fraud.

Keep an open dialogue with neighbors, friends, and advisors connected to older relatives or other loved ones. The more people you have looking out for your loved one, the less likely it is that someone can take advantage of them without your knowing.

Finally, you should encourage your loved one to meet privately with an experienced Nashville elder law attorney to determine what they can do to protect themselves from bad actors. Having a legal document in place naming a trusted advisor, or agent, to help handle finances can help protect them. An experienced elder law attorney also knows what questions to ask and the warning signs to look for in suspected elder exploitation. If you would like help creating these documents or navigating your next steps, please call our Nashville elder law firm at (615) 846–6201 or schedule a consultation .


What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will?

What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will?

Introduction to Tennessee’s Intestacy Law

Dying without a will, is unfortunately very common. If you die without a will, your property will likely go through a court process called probate and will ultimately be distributed according to Tennessee’s intestacy law. Here are some common events that may happen if you die intestate:

  1. Your immediate next of kin, whoever they are, will likely inherit your property first. If you die intestate, everything goes to your next of kin. Your next of kin are the people who have the closest relation to you. Your children are first in line, along with your spouse if you are married at the time of your death. Otherwise, it’s your closest relatives. For example, say you die intestate without a spouse, children, or parents. Your next of kin could be your much younger half-sister or a cousin you’ve never met. Whoever fits the “closest living relative(s)” criteria will inherit everything after the estate pays your debts and taxes.
     
  2. That son- or daughter-in-law you don’t like will get your property before that niece or nephew you do like. Marital property owned by your children is governed by the laws of the states they live in, not you. If they live in a communal property state, they’re sharing the inheritance, 50/50. While the laws are different in every state, property acquired during marriage by either spouse may be marital property, especially if used for the benefit of both spouses. 
     
  3. A little bit of money up for grabs can have a cooling effect on interfamilial relationships. In a perfect world, family members would all get along, never be jealous, and always do right by each other. This isn’t a perfect world. Intestacy law doesn’t take into account the relationships the deceased had with anyone or what the deceased orally promised to someone. Even if widowed Uncle Bob told you he wanted you to have his ’65 Thunderbird, without a will, the car is going to his son…who doesn’t even have a driver’s license. When families start fighting over estates, lawyers get a lot of money and the family gets a lot of heartache, so it’s best to put your wishes in writing so everyone knows what is expected in advance and the Court has authority to enforce your wishes.

If you’ve recently lost a loved one who did not have a will and you have questions about the administration of their estate, you should speak to a probate attorney for guidance.  If you need assistance, we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation.