If you suspect or know that someone in your life has been the victim of Elder Abuse, then you should contact an Elder Abuse attorney to protect them and their finances as soon as possible.
What Is Elder Abuse?
Many seniors require a degree of support as they get older and their physical and mental capabilities decline. This includes support for financial matters and decisions over assets, wills and trust.
Anyone in this position must act in the senior’s best interests and not exploit them for personal or anyone else’s purposes.
If they fail to act responsibly, it’s Elder Abuse.
In Florida, there are strict elder exploitation laws. Breaking these laws can result in severe penalties, including punitive damages, triple damages and expensive attorneys’ fees.
Definition Under Florida Law
Florida Statute §415.1111 describes Elder Abuse as:
- The ‘exploitation’ of an elderly person occurs by an individual in a position of trust and confidence.
- It occurs either knowingly, by deception or through intimidation.
- The person obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, a vulnerable adult’s funds, assets or property for their own or someone else’s benefit.
- Or to deprive the vulnerable adult of its use, benefit or possession.
- Any willful act or threatened act that causes significant impairment to the senior’s physical or mental health.
Elder Fiduciary Abuse
A trusted person may be granted special legal powers to make decisions for an elder through a power of attorney or guardianship. This is called a ‘fiduciary relationship.’
Fiduciaries must maintain very high standards due to their position of authority.
Under Florida law, a breach of fiduciary duties include:
- An unauthorized appropriation, transfer or sale of an elder’s property
- Fraud, wasting, embezzling or intentionally mismanaging property or assets
- Misusing, misappropriating or transferring any money without authorization
- Failing to properly the elder’s assets in their best interests
How to Spot Elder Abuse?
You may be able to spot the signs of Elder Abuse before it’s too late or to stop the abuse from lasting any longer. If you suspect or see any signs of elder abuse, you should report it to the Florida Adult Protective Services and contact an Elder Abuse attorney.
Elder abuse is particularly common when the senior is isolated. Abusers tend to be found in positions of power and trust. Look out for:
- Anyone trying to isolate an elder from other people or family members.
- Significant cash withdrawals or bank transfers.
- Forged signatures of checks or documents.
- An elder giving someone signatory power over bank accounts
- Excessive reimbursements or purchases for caregivers.
- Unusual spending activities or credit card charges
- Changes to title or deeds for real property.
- Unexplainable concern or stress from the elder over decisions, relationships or finances.
What Does an Elder Abuse Attorney Do?
In Florida, an Elderly Abuse attorney will help protect vulnerable older adults and their families from being exploited. The course of action they’ll take depends on the types of abuse.
For example, suppose an elder’s assets are at threat from financial exploitation. In that case, an Elderly Abuse attorney can help provide a temporary freeze to prevent the senior’s resources from being drained. This can buy time for an investigation, where an Elderly Abuse attorney will work to get a judge to limit contact between the elderly person and the exploiter.
Every circumstance has a different route of action to take. The best thing to do is contact an Elderly Abuse attorney as soon as possible for expert advice.
Filing an Exploitation Claim
In many scenarios, it can be best to file an undue influence claim. While in others, an Elderly Abuse attorney may request that the court appoint a legal guardian for your loved one. This is often the last resort, as maintaining a senior’s independence is the desired outcome.
Who Can Be a Victim of Elder Abuse in Florida?
In Florida, the law defines an elderly person as someone aged 60 or older and suffering from the difficulties of: ‘advanced age, organic brain damage, or other physical, mental or emotional dysfunctioning, to the extent that the ability of the person to provide adequately for the person’s own care or protection is impaired.
Florida’s statute protects certain disabled adults, regardless of their age.
Many people find it complicated to understand if a person over 60 can be a victim if they haven’t been diagnosed with a condition. If so, an Elder Abuse attorney will use medical records, testimonies and other information to show that their capabilities are limited and make them vulnerable to elder abuse.
What Are the Consequences for the Abuser?
Financial exploitation of an elderly person can be a felony. The severity of the charge will depend on the value of the property and the assets involved. Criminal prosecution may result in the abuser being cut off from the victim and potentially provide for restitution, especially if considerable damage has occurred.
In the past, we’ve seen abusers sentenced to jail when criminally prosecuted for cases involving significant sums of money or property.
However, remember that criminal prosecutions occur after the crime has been committed – so the senior has already suffered. Instead, you should act fast to work with an experienced Elder Abuse attorney to prevent any further damage fast.
Alternatively, civil action such as filing for an injunction prevents further harm can allow for swift and effective protection.
Who Pays for Elder Abuse Attorney Fees?
This generally depends on the type of claim made. In some scenarios, Florida law will allow the victim to recover legal expenses from the abuser.
Contact a Florida Elder Abuse Attorney
If you believe a senior in your life has been a victim of manipulation, exploitation or any other abuse, then you should contact a Florida Elder Abuse Attorney as soon as possible.
If you have any questions or suspicions, contact us today.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is a U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced attorneys, they give you the best chance of protecting your loved one, your family and their assets.
Schedule a free consultation today to get started.