How to Handle Suspected Florida Elder Abuse Financial Exploitation
In Florida, elder abuse & financial exploitation often go hand-in-hand. If you believe that you or an elderly loved one has been a target of financial exploitation in Florida, there are a few things you need to know.
What Is Florida Elder Abuse Financial Exploitation?
Although Florida elder abuse financial exploitation occurs in various scenarios, it can often be challenging to determine and harder to prove. Under F.S.§415.1111, exploitation occurs when a trusted individual uses the assets, funds, or property of a vulnerable adult to whom they have specific responsibilities for their personal benefit rather than for the intended purposes.
Warning signs of abuse include:
- Cash withdrawals from bank accounts
- Changes to deeds or titles
- Extravagant gifts and purchases for caregivers
- Forged signatures on checks and documents
- Increased spending and credit card charges
- Isolation of the elder due to the actions of a caregiver, friend, neighbor, or relative
- Large transfers or withdrawals between accounts
- Other suspicious financial activities
Anyone suspecting or witnessing elder abuse should report it to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Otherwise, they may be considered complicit in the crime. Immediately contacting an experienced attorney can protect the informant while protecting the affected senior from Florida elder abuse and financial exploitation.
Elder Abuse Financial Exploitation Protections
What are protections for elder abuse financial exploitations? According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, financial exploitation of the elderly and other vulnerable adults is quickly increasing. This led to additional protections being instituted in 2020.
Unfortunately, as holders of the greatest percentage of the wealth in the U.S., seniors are the perfect victims of fiduciary crimes. The majority of these offenses are committed by family and loved ones.
Vulnerable adults rarely want to be seen as in need of protection. They are frequently isolated and are often too embarrassed to report alleged crimes to authorities, as they are concerned they won’t be taken seriously. However, getting help is essential to stop the unlawful activity.
What Is the Penalty for Elder Financial Abuse?
So, what is the penalty for elder financial abuse? Florida statutes define abuse and exploitation as any deliberate act by a caregiver, household member, or relative that causes financial duress to an older person or otherwise vulnerable adult. This is especially true if they know that the adult lacks the legal ability to consent and subsequently uses their assets, funds, or property.
Can You Go to Jail for Financial Elder Abuse?
Can you go to jail for financial elder abuse? The simple answer is yes. Criminal penalties for financial abuse crimes against a senior citizen, individual with a developmental disability, or those with other underlying physical and mental health issues include the following:
- A first-degree felony is when over $100,000 is misappropriated and is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, 30 years probation, and a $10,000 fine.
- A second-degree felony is when between $20,000 and $100,00 is misappropriated and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years probation, and a $10,000 fine.
With such severe penalties, you should retain the services of a reputable law firm familiar with the complexities of these cases if you feel you are wrongfully accused of exploitation.
Understanding the Elder Abuse Investigation Process
The elder abuse investigation process is often an intricate and complicated one with many different elements involved. Some of the immediate actions that may spur an investigation include:
- Failure to use the vulnerable adult’s assets for their necessities, support, and maintenance
- Misappropriation of a vulnerable adult’s funds from their personal or joint account
- Misuse of guardianship or power of attorney duties, such as the unauthorized allotment, sale, or transfer of the victim’s property
- Using funds intended for the senior’s beneficiaries
Fortunately, once the exploitation has been reported, it is in the hands of government agencies to pursue the issues and begin the process toward administering justice.
The Process of Investigating Abuse of Adults
Investigating the abuse of adults can be complicated since circumstances are often sensitive, and the affected parties may be unaware they are being victimized or exploited. The responsible parties are often difficult to ascertain, but those who may be accused or charged with Florida elder abuse and financial exploitation of elderly persons include the following:
- Adult child
- Adult household members
- Another family member living outside of the household
- Broker or financial advisor
- Individuals in a business relationship with the vulnerable person
- Staff members at an assisted living facility
- Those with a legal or fiduciary relationship with the older person
- Voluntary guardian
When the proper estate plans are set forth with reputable law firms and financial advisors, the protection of the elderly and disabled is easier to establish and ensure.
How to Report Elder Abuse Anonymously
When you suspect someone of misconduct, you are likely to wonder how to report elder abuse anonymously to avoid retaliation toward yourself or your vulnerable loved one. Although you can directly contact law enforcement, you will be required to participate in the investigation.
Many people prefer to separate themselves from what they consider unpleasant issues, even if they are assisting in protecting a vulnerable or disabled adult by reporting them. Caregivers at an assisted living facility or mental health treatment center have a responsibility and fiduciary duty to help prevent actual and punitive damages toward those with physical or mental incapacitation. Calling the Florida Abuse Hotline allows them to report immediate or ongoing issues anonymously and without retaliation.
When You Need to Know How to Report Financial Elder Abuse in Florida
You need to know several things regarding how to report financial elder abuse in Florida to protect a vulnerable adult. Fortunately, a new Florida law took effect on July 1, 2020, that increased financial advisors’ and security dealers’ ability to take action when they suspect their elderly or impaired client is being financially victimized.
As a result, they may freeze or delay authorization money via financial disbursement or transaction of funds from the senior’s account if they believe exploitation is occurring. Then, within three days, they must notify all parties and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation in writing, at which time an internal investigation will take place.
Hire a Florida Elder Abuse Attorney
When you need to hire a Florida elder abuse attorney, it is wise to choose one with whom you can build a solid attorney-client relationship. A disabled person without an oral or written contract to protect them may find themselves in disputes over normal activities or the use of intangible personal property, which can be extremely sensitive issues.
Elder exploitation is an unfortunate matter that can often occur due to the careless actions of well-meaning family members. Since the person’s guardian who assumed responsibility for their various elder affairs may be unaware of a relevant Florida statute, it is wise to seek legal advice before taking actions like making bona fide charitable donations with the elderly person’s funds.
Florida Financial Advisors and Elder Abuse Attorneys
Financial advisors in Florida must be aware of their client’s circumstances and their situation, their vulnerabilities, and the separate properties involved.
Although it is essential to protect your assets with an estate plan, possible guardianship, and power of attorney, many postpone these steps until their wishes become vulnerable to the intervention of family members with a legal or fiduciary relationship or the court. Clark Law Group, PA, can help a senior protect his or her own care. Contact the firm to begin laying the groundwork today!