Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Financial Elder Abuse

How can you protect seniors from financial exploitation?

About one month after her father died, Linda Magel realized that $118,000 of his life savings had disappeared. The Chase Bank branch from which it had been withdrawn was one her father had never set foot in. It seems that the elderly California man, who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's, had been the victim of an unscrupulous bank employee who forged signatures to steal the funds.

JP Morgan Chase ultimately provided a refund, but only after considerable resistance. It initially denied her claim, saying too much time had passed. Only complaints to the Department of Treasury and threats of litigation led to a refund with interest, though Magel asserts that the bank did not refund all the interest it should have.

As for the bank employee who stole her father's savings, prosecutors offered to reduce the charge of felony grand theft to a misdemeanor if the employee reimbursed the bank in full within three years. A judge refused to accept the lenient plea deal, insisting that the defendant receive an elder abuse charge.

Magel believes that, because of some of the procedures followed in the unauthorized withdrawal of her father's funds, other bank employees may have been involved, but no one else was ever charged.

The case is just one of many recent fraud cases involving seniors suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia. As serious as these crimes may be, the penalties are not always severe. In one case, a California police officer was sentenced to just two months in prison for trying to steal $1.5 million from his elderly neighbor.

Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. Guardianship, also referred to as conservatorship, is one legal arrangement that can protect a senior's assets. The experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Berge & Berge can advise you in all aspects of estate planning. The firm has proudly served the South Bay area for more than 20 years, including San Jose and Santa Clara County. Call us today at (408)985-9918 to schedule a consultation.

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