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How to Prevent Elder Abuse with Estate Planning

Learn about elder abuse and how to protect yourself or a loved one from it in our complete guide.

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Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

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Elder abuse is the mistreatment of elders, whether it be physical, emotional, financial, sexual, willful deprivation, or more. It is estimated that 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and older will face elder abuse, currently bringing the number of people facing elder abuse to at least five million each year in the United States. The total amount of money that is lost each year due to elder abuse is estimated at $36.5 billion. Elder abuse has become even more of a risk during COVID-19 as elders have been more separated from those who care for them.

Elder abuse is widely prevalent within the United States and is only becoming more of a concern as years pass. This is due to the fact that the amount of the American population that are elders is only increasing, as there is predicted to eventually be more elders than children for the first time in American history. With such a large part of the population expected to be in the elder category soon, it makes addressing elder abuse and eradicating it even more important, as a significant portion of our population will be at risk. Fortunately, Estate Planning is one simple way to prevent elder abuse. 

Estate Planning is the process of creating a comprehensive plan to legally document who will receive your assets when you pass away, who will be in charge of your medical decisions in the event that you cannot, and much more. There are a few ways you can use Estate Planning to your benefit and to ensure that elder abuse does not happen to you. With Estate Planning, you can prevent elder abuse by:

Trust & Will knows how frightening it can be to think about the prospect of being taken advantage of in your twilight years should you become dependent on the care of others due to injury or illness. For that reason, we have put together a list of ways that you can use Trust-Based Estate Planning to your advantage to prevent elder abuse from happening to you. 

Using Estate Planning to Prevent Elder Abuse

Elder abuse may often seem like a faraway issue that you can put off thinking about. However, time often goes by much faster than we anticipate, and it is best to plan for your future now rather than waiting until the last minute. Below are details on how Estate Planning can help stop elder abuse from occurring to you.

Creating a Trust

A Trust is a legal document that determines who your assets will go to once you are deceased. Your assets can include anything from property, to jewelry, to bank accounts. A Trust can help defend against elder abuse, more specifically often financial elder abuse as well as emotional and physical abuse, because you will already have a plan set out to protect your assets. By creating a Trust, you will have a complete say over what happens to your assets once you are deceased or incapacitated and no longer able to speak for yourself. 

With a Trust, you cannot be easily manipulated by those looking to take advantage of your financial assets as you have taken steps to protect them. With your assets protected, you will be less likely to fall victim to elder abuse because a Trust makes it much more difficult to abuse you. To learn more about Trusts and their many benefits, read our article “What is Trust and Why Do You Need One?” 

Appointing a Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is someone you have given legal authorization to who can act on your behalf financially once you can no longer do so yourself. This can be extremely beneficial in preventing financial elder abuse. Appointing your Power of Attorney involves carefully choosing someone you know you can trust to act on your behalf. Elders are at risk of being targeted for financial abuse, as they are viewed as easier to take advantage of and with little ability to protect themselves. Clear signs of financial elder abuse are unusual changes in spending, fraudulent signatures, or bills that are going unpaid that were normally paid off. 

By appointing a Power of Attorney, you are ensuring that someone you trust will be in charge of your finances, making you a less likely target for financial elder abuse as you will be more difficult to take advantage of. Having a Power of Attorney can also help decrease your likelihood of emotional elder abuse as you will be harder to threaten into giving up your financial assets as someone else will be able to speak in your defense.

Setting up Healthcare Directives/healthcare documents

A healthcare directive is someone you have legally appointed to make decisions about your healthcare once you are no longer capable of doing so, such as in the case of Alzheimer’s or a coma. Healthcare documents will include written specifications of your healthcare decisions should you become incapable of verbalizing your wishes. Having Healthcare Directives and healthcare documents can help prevent elder abuse, especially willful deprivation, which is when people neglect an elder’s medical needs, medical care, and more, exposing them to mental, physical, and emotional harm. Healthcare Directives and healthcare documents can help prevent elder abuse because you will have someone who can legally fight for you and your rights. At the same time, your healthcare documents will provide written proof of your wishes, making it much harder for people to get away with willful deprivation as a form of elder abuse. 

Elder abuse is a real issue, one that many elderly people can fall victim to. Trust & Will knows how terrifying this can seem. That is why we are committed to helping reduce your likelihood of falling victim to elder abuse with our online services. Through our website, you can create an online Trust-Based Estate Plan, along with a Will as well. By creating a full Estate Plan early on, you will be protecting yourself from future abuse and neglect. With Trust & Will, it is possible to prepare for your future at a price that is affordable for you. Check out our website today to start planning for your future now!

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