Hook Law Center: Exploitation of the Elderly - the Virginia Response

Hook Law Center: Exploitation of the Elderly - the Virginia Response

Possibly you have read about Elder Abuse in various publications. Unfortunately, it is a real phenomenon. Abuse can occur in physical forms or financially. Well, Virginia just might be ahead of the curve in this matter. The Virginia General Assembly, backed up by the Virginia State Crime Commission, plans to advocate for new laws to prevent financial exploitation of the elderly or mentally incapacitated in the 2013 session. Previous efforts in past sessions had failed. What makes this time different?

This time there is the backing of the Virginia State Crime Commission which could prove to be critical in convincing reluctant legislators. With their help, there are now statistics just how big a problem there is with financial abuse. There have been laws on the books about financial abuse, but they really didn't cover the circumstances where a seemingly-competent adult is taken advantage of. For example, in Henrico County (around Richmond), an elderly man with Alzheimer's was taken to a bank by a female acquaintance to withdraw money. She then dropped the man off at a motel overnight while she went on a shopping spree. Then the following day, she took him to a jewelry store to supposedly buy an engagement ring. She eventually was caught when she took him to a Social Security office to have his payments switched to her. There wasn't enough evidence to prove financial exploitation, because the victim was there and had given his consent. But it was so obvious that abuse had occurred that the judge gave the perpetrator jail time, even though she was only technically convicted of a misdemeanor for the neglect of abandoning the victim at a motel.

This is only one example of a growing problem. Information gathered by the Department of Criminal Justice Services reveals that, in Virginia, from 2001- -2007, the number of total financial crimes rose 8.6%. However, for victims over age 65, the increase was 18%. What's more alarming is that the majority of perpetrators of these types of crimes are known to the victim--a caregiver or family member. Gail Nardi, Adult Services Program Manager of the Virginia Department of Social Services, reports that in many cases, a son or daughter gains ownership of the family home through means that are at best questionable.

Any new law that is passed will have to require that there is a finding of the victim being mentally incapacitated. The law cannot be so broad that it captures innocent recipients of gifts from the elderly, but it must be specific enough, that if a person is mentally incapable of looking out for his/her own affairs, he/she is not unfairly taken advantage of. The heirs may not like what their parent does with his/her money, but if they are competent, the parent can dispose of money as he/she sees fit. This law will help raise awareness about the plight of the elderly who are incompetent.

Stay tuned to see what the Virginia General Assembly does in the 2013 session!

(Information taken from "Lawmakers to target exploitation of elderly,"http://valawyersweekly.com/2012/12/27/lawmakers-to-target-exploitation-of-elderly/)

Hook Law Center has been providing the highest quality of legal advice to the communities of Hampton Roads for more than 80 years. Our practice is dedicated to seniors, and disabled persons, their families and advocates. Our professional staff can respond to our client's care needs on a 24 hour basis, and our Attorneys are available to provide expertise on every issue facing senior citizens from long-term and life care planning to estate and trust issues as well as financial, investment, public benefit, and insurance assistance. Visit their website for more information.

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