A few years ago I wrote a blog about drafting a health care proxy for your young freshmen. This is a topic I often talk about because it is so important, but most people never think of it. Well, I was thrilled when recently a young family member forwarded an e-mail from her college and asked for my help. This e-mail recommended that she have a health care proxy, power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization drafted before the start of school.
Elder abuse comes in many forms. An overwhelming majority of it is financial abuse. If you have an elder parent or family member who lives alone, he or she may be at risk of a new wave of telemarketing fraud targeting the elderly.
One recent case of telemarketing fraud billed elderly consumers for medical alert devices they never ordered. Telemarketers would claim they were calling in response to a request for information from the person or a family member and then try to sell them the device. Even those who didn’t order were sent a bill along with the shipment. The company behind the telemarketing fraud would then use threats and intimidation to induce the victims to pay.
If you don’t think telemarketing fraud can happen to your loved one, consider this. According to a study by the AARP, seniors over age 50 are disproportionately at risk for becoming victims of telemarketing fraud. The study found that the average age of victims was 69 and that women were twice as likely as men to become victims.
Telemarketing fraud is also becoming increasingly sophisticated. Fast-talking predators use high pressure sales techniques and psychological ploys to overcome a senior’s initial resistance. Some other common schemes involve low-cost, high-risk investments, fake charities, time-sensitive product deals, or prize winnings that seniors are told they have to pay taxes or a fee to collect.
When a senior becomes a victim of telemarketing fraud, it can be financially devastating. Because these crimes are hard to trace, it is very difficult for victims to get their money back. Sadly, many incidents of telemarketing fraud against the elderly simply go unreported. Elderly victims may be embarrassed, don’t know where to go to report the crime, or fear they will lose their independence if they do report it.
Here are some steps you can take to help protect your elderly parents or family members from becoming victims.
- Talk to your parents about types of telemarketing fraud and remind them never to pay up front for a product or service, or to give out personal information such as a credit card or social security number over the phone.
- Offer to help them manage their personal finances so you can monitor bank and credit card statements for any unusual activity.
- Have them sign up for national Do Not Call list (888-382-1222, www.donotcall.gov) to help cut down on telemarketing calls.
- Design a call script, such as “I don’t give out personal information over the phone,” to aid them in ending calls from pushy telemarketers.
- If your elderly parent has dementia, or is otherwise incapacitated, you may want to contact an elder law attorney to advise you on utilizing your parent’s durable power of attorney and/or obtaining a guardianship or conservatorship.
For more suggestions on how to identify and prevent elderly telemarketing scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer education website.
The best protection against telemarketing fraud and elder abuse is to ensure that your loved ones are properly cared for and that their assets are protected. Proper estate planning can help give you and your loved ones piece of mind. Contact us to discuss various planning options today.
Photo Credit: Tim Dorr
If you have a family member who is suffering from some form of dementia, you know how financially difficult providing quality care can be. According to a study published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, the financial burden on the nation as a whole is staggering, with the costs now exceeding those of both heart disease and cancer. [Read more…]
Massachusetts was recently struck by Hurricane Sandy, as was most of the east coast. We did pretty well here in Worcester and our hearts are with those who fared much worse than us in New York and New Jersey among other places.
Watching the devastation on television made me take action on two fronts, one: donate money to the Red Cross, and two: make sure my financial house was as ready for an emergency as my physical house was.
Here in Massachusetts we’re preparing for the snow storm season, so it is never too late to start.
For an emergency like the one the east coast just experienced experts recommend, among other things water and food to last about three days, cash and a tank full of gas (http://www.redcross.org/prepare).
What about our financial house? Let’s start with the most immediate needs and think about what should go into an emergency financial kit:
1. Access to cash in an emergency
Keep information about all the accounts that could give you access to cash, this includes checking, savings, money market, and even home equity accounts. You will need the account numbers and contact information for the financial institution. Most often, a copy of a statement will have all the information you need.
You should also consider including a copy of all your credit and debit cards, both front and back. This will give you the information you need to pay in some cases, or to contact the institution should you need to.
2. Medical Information and Caregivers
Your emergency financial kit should also include information about your preferred medical providers. Having their contact information can ensure you are treated by your preferred provider in an emergency, and in some cases, save you money.
3. Insurance Information
Make copies of ALL your insurance cards. Home, car, medical, dental and prescription. If your home or vehicle are damaged, the insurance information in there may be damaged as well, also, if you end up having to evacuate and leave your home or vehicle, you will not want to return just to retrieve these.
Also make sure you have the contact information for your insurance company and agent. Often in an emergency where companies are swamped with requests, your agent can help you get through or connect you to other resources available to you.
4. Longer Term Investments
Your emergency financial kit should also include copies of paperwork documenting your investments accounts. Your investment accounts include IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, 529, or any other retirement or long-term savings account. Also include the contact information for any financial planner or planners who manage these accounts for you.
5. Your Estate Planning Documents
Your Will, Health Care Proxy, and Power of Attorney should always be in a safe place, but especially in an emergency. You should place your paperwork in your emergency financial kit, or the information on how to access them, whether they are with your attorney or a safety deposit box etc…
6. Accessing Your Financial Information online
If all the information for accessing you finances and any other important sites are safely locked away in your memory, you may want to consider including the websites and passwords in your emergency kit, or if you do not feel safe carrying that around, you can provide them to a trusted person who is out of harm’s way. This will allow your family to access important information or funds if you are incapacitated, or simply incommunicado.
With the winter upon us here in Massachusetts, and with the painful lessons the Northeast just learned fresh in our memories, now is a great time to look at your emergency plan. If you have not done much in the way of financial or estate planning, now is a good time to think about that as well, and whether your family would be protected in the worst-case-scenario. Call us to discuss your planning and the best way to protect your family in an emergency.
If you’ve had legal documents drafted in Massachusetts pertaining to your health, financial, and long-term care wishes, you should have them reviewed and revised now! Massachusetts laws relating to powers of attorney and health care proxies have recently changed. This along with federal medical privacy laws can affect your already-created documents.
The federal law, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), generally prevents health care providers from disclosing your personal medical information to anyone other than you and someone you’ve named as your “personal representative.” Frequently you will sign medical releases at your physician’s office allowing them to communicate with any specialists you are seeing, like a podiatrist or a cardiologist. Protecting your medical privacy is very important but the law can create some complications. [Read more…]
When we typically think of estate planning, we see grandma and grandpa putting together a Will and possibly setting up some trusts for the following generations. It’s all about providing for our offspring, right? [Read more…]
Most everyone would say that they want to be independent and remain in their own homes as long as possible. This sense of autonomy can be kept in place longer than ever before due to medical advances, assistive devices, and in-home care provided by family members and private caretakers. However, what happens when an elder can no longer remain safely in their home and an adult child is trying to get them the help they need?
Esther is 89 years old. She has lived alone since the death of her husband 23 years ago. She gave up driving two years ago, but is regularly visited by her children and grandchildren, who take care of errands or drive her to handle things herself. Lately, she has been rather unsteady on her feet. Additionally, she has been very forgetful and once left the stove on all night. She is also having trouble remembering to take her medications. There were so many her daughter, Susan, sorts them every week into a pill box. Esther still forgets to take them and sometimes actually doubles up on doses. Susan can see its time for more help but Esther is adamant about not having strangers in the house and doesn’t want to end up in “one of those places…” [Read more…]
Many seniors currently need assistance paying their bills and managing their finances, or may need help sometime in the future. It’s important to have a trustworthy person authorized to manage your finances should you be unable to do so yourself. Are joint bank accounts a good option? [Read more…]
Lately, the matter of Brooke Astor’s estate has been covered in the media. Like many people she had an estate plan in place which included a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, which nominated subsituted decision makers in the event she would lose the capacity to make important financial and/or medical decisions at some point during her elder years. She did not want to burden her family with obtaining a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship through the courts. She did end up suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and her son took over her financial powers. He just didn’t do a very good job… [Read more…]