On March 31st, 2021, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed into law the Nebraska Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation Act. This important piece of legislation gives investment advisors and other financial planners the ability to take action when they suspect that one of their elderly clients is being exploited for someone else’s financial gain. In cases where an investment advisor suspects that some form of exploitation is taking place, the new law allows them to put a “hold” on a transaction in order to determine whether it is the result of exploitation. The law also allows financial advisors, without incurring any liability themselves, to notify Adult Protective Services or other state agencies so that appropriate action can be taken.
Scope & Severity of Financial Exploitation of Elders
Financial elder abuse is a serious problem. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one in five seniors will, at some point, be the victim of financial elder abuse, and the average amount of money lost is $45,000. Most of us are familiar with telephone scams aimed at coaxing seniors into making large donations or divulging personal information, such as Social Security numbers. Even more serious, however, are situations in which an older person is dependent on a family member or caregiver who pressures them into withdrawing large sums of money, moving money between accounts, or purchasing assets that are not in their best interest. Such forms of financial abuse are harder to detect, and elderly clients are sometimes unwilling to face the reality that someone they love and depend on is actually harming them.
People often think that financial elder abuse only victimizes seniors with obvious cognitive impairments, too. However, financial elder abuse can occur where you least expect it. Researchers have concluded that seniors can suffer from “age-associated financial vulnerability” even when they are otherwise competent. Parts of the brain responsible for mathematical skills can decline without any noticeable signs of brain damage, which can make financial planning and involvement a challenge. Seniors can also experience a decline in “empathy,” meaning they are less able to perceive and understand the feelings of others, including family members and caregivers who seem honest but are, in fact, depleting the senior’s assets and endangering their ability to pay for their long-term care.
As people live longer thanks to medical and societal progress, more seniors are living by themselves at home without much in the way of support and social interaction. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this problem because many seniors have had to remain isolated with only a few individuals allowed to come in and out of their homes. While keeping a senior in such circumstances can lower the chance of infection, it also makes them more vulnerable to different forms of abuse when they have only one or two people helping them with their affairs.
Trusted Legal Support for Elders in Nebraska
At Burnett Wilson Law, we have a team of elder law attorneys with extensive experience in helping seniors manage their financial affairs and navigate complicated family dynamics. We help our clients with financial powers of attorney and other documents designed to honor their wishes and protect them from exploitation. We know how to include family members in conversations with clients, while also taking appropriate action when we feel that a client is at risk.
Please call us at (402) 810-8611 or contact us online if you have more questions about how to protect elders from financial exploitation.