ELDER ABUSE COMPLEXITY
I want to address financial abuse between adult children and their parents. This cannot be accomplished in a single commentary. My thoughts are triggered by two recent newsprint articles. Ruthie Ackerman in The Wall Street Journal asks, “Are Your Parents Sponges?” Scott Wilson of the LA Times offers some ideas on how to prevent financial abuse in“The Five: How to Chat Up Parents on Their Finances.“ I have combined their ideas with my own experiences managing my parents’ finances during their last years.
Many parents express the wish that they not be a burden to their children and take steps to make sure of that. My frugal, Depression-era parents possessed more wealth than any of their children and were able to cover their own expenses to the end. Even so, numerous problems were prevented by planning with my parents while they could still make decisions. If we had been a different family, it might have had a different ending.
WHAT IS FINANCIAL ABUSE
I call it “Financial Abuse” if one party in a position of power attempts to spend or succeeds in making the other party spend their assets in ways they would not ordinarily choose. Financial abuse can be accomplished by both legal and illegal manipulation and action. The following are examples that I have personally witnessed:
- Adult children spending elder’s assets that should go toward the well-being of the elder.
- Children removing personal property from elder’s possession before estate is settled.
- Relatives abusing Guardianship and Power of Attorney of elder for financial gain.
- Guardian spending elder’s money for medical and housing care when it is appropriate.
- Adult children refusing to spend elder’s money because it will lower inheritance.
- Family spending assets in litigation.
- Parents expecting children to pay for parents bad financial decisions.
- Child expecting parents to pay for child’s bad financial decisions.
- Elder expecting relatives to handle all housing, feeding, and care.
- Family members assuming they know how much their relatives make and can afford to contribute toward their care.
- Adult children not helping out their parents for reasonable aid.
- Siblings expecting the “well-off” sibling to carry the financial parental care burden for the family.
- Parents expecting unmarried daughter to care for them, with or without pay
A key point is that financial abuse in families is multi-directional and can occur between generations and within generations. Start by recognizing it. Tomorrow’s post will address methods for preventing financial abuse within families.