When seniors create an estate plan, they often do so to ensure they can distribute their wealth as they see fit. They may also include elements in their plans to protect themselves in case they should become infirm or incapacitated. Typically, they use a power of attorney designation for the latter. However, more seniors in British Columbia and across Canada are becoming victims of elder abuse when those with power of attorney take advantage of their designation.
Financial advisors say the problem is becoming an epidemic. All too often, seniors unwittingly open themselves to financial abuse when they add a family member's name to their bank accounts or home deeds. Before they know it, the relative has stolen the assets and left them with no resources. Even something as critical as a power of attorney can become a danger to a senior if certain precautions are not in place.
Advisors recommend that seniors grant more than one person power of attorney so a system of checks and balances is in place. Additionally, seniors should be careful not to isolate themselves since this makes them vulnerable to those who would prey on them. Having a solid relationship with one's financial planner and an estate planning lawyer is a good way to establish oversight for those granted power of attorney.
British Columbia seniors who suspect that someone is taking advantage of them should take steps immediately to protect themselves. It is not always easy to reclaim money that is stolen, and those responsible for the elder abuse may cause tremendous harm to one's well-being if not checked. Contacting police is a good first step, and seeking advice from a lawyer is always an option.