For updated COVID-19 precautions and FAQs, please click here for more information.

Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

7 Signs to Look for When Identifying Financial Elder Abuse

June 3, 2019

If you have an elder or aging parent in your life, chances are you’ve felt the need to keep an eye out for them. With scams galore these days, it’s increasingly dangerous to trust anyone.

Unfortunately, financial elder abuse is extremely common and it’s nearly impossible to recoup missing funds once they’re gone.

The solution? Prevention. Keep an eye on not only your elderly loved ones, but also those that may be around you like neighbors, or even the parents of a friend.

1. New Friends or Romantic Interests (Especially Online)

If someone new comes into a senior’s life and they seem to have a great influence on their actions or opinions, this may indicate someone who wants more than a relationship. This person should be especially concerning if they are significantly younger, from another country, or if it is someone they met online.

In this case, prevention is key. Seniors who feel lonely or isolated are targets. Stay involved in their life, have conversations with them, and keep in the loop. Any fishy activity can be stopped before it’s too late.

2. Relatives Who Have Suddenly Emerged

If you’ve noticed a relative suddenly more involved in a senior’s life, or even spending more money than they have in the past, this may be a sign of financial abuse. Although it’s not impossible for people’s lifestyles to change, it’s better to be proactive should you notice anything different.

3. Missing Belongings

If you notice the belongings of an elderly person missing, just ask. If you’re the relative of an elderly you often visit, you may notice things missing from their home. If you’re a neighbor, you might notice a missing vehicle that a family member who doesn’t visit often wouldn’t notice.

4. Unable to Manage Finances on Their Own or Missing Money

If your senior relative is competent and generally pays bills on time, but then suddenly isn’t, it could be a sign of financial abuse. This is especially the case if checks appear to have been written, but bills are consistently unpaid.

Suggest that your senior relative get check images from their bank to find out where the money went.

Cash disappearing without receipts or the senior consistently running out of cash may mean that someone else is wrongfully benefitting from them.

This behavior can also have other warning signs, such as collection letters, or even a lack of food in the home.

5. Unusual Use of Credit Cards

If you notice unusual credit card use, such as an increase in use frequency, or even cash advances, it’s time to have a conversation.

New authorized users are also a sign to watch out for.

6. Sudden Decline in Their Standard of Living

When a family member or friend manages a senior’s finances, be alert to any sudden declines in their lifestyle. This could indicate a caregiver is appropriating the senior’s funds for themselves.

Watch for things like eviction notices at a home they have lived in for years, utilities being cut off for non-payment, lack of trips to the dentist or salon because they "aren’t necessary."  Also, check the refrigerator and pantry for appropriate supplies.

7. Sudden Changes to a Will or Estate Plan

A recently changed a will or estate plan to include a new person, or to give the bulk of the estate to one person in particular is a possible sign of financial abuse.

It’s perfectly normal for an individual to leave everything to their spouse or even to disinherit a relative for reason. However, suddenly favoring one child, or an unrelated individual while leaving the others in the cold is abnormal behavior and may indicate that the new beneficiary has had an undue influence on them.

Taking Action

We’re not recommending that you play 50 questions with the elder in your life. Oftentimes, that will hurt the relationship rather than help it as they strive to remain independent. Rather, take an interest in their lives and be consistent, but not overbearing.

The best way to protect the elderly from financial abuse is prevention and to have a proper estate plan in place.

If your senior relative does not have an estate plan in place, encourage them to contact The Chubb Law firm to set up an appointment by calling (916) 241-9661. It’s important to have a plan in place early and for you to keep your eyes open before elder abuse occurs.

Free Resources


Heather helped my mother get her estate in order before her passing. It was only after that we learned just what a great job Heather did. Recently, I had the opportunity to have the Chubb Law Firm help me also with my estate. I feel confident that Heather and her team helped me to consider all of the appropriate options and to make the right choices including options I DIDN'T KNOW I HAD! This is the kind of law firm one imagines when you think about getting good legal advice.

As Seen On