Buzz Aldrin, famed U.S. astronaut, recently filed a lawsuit against his son, his daughter and his business manager. The lawsuit alleges elder exploitation, unjust enrichment, conspiracy and breach of fiduciary duty, among other things.
What happened? As Mr. Aldrin increasingly involved his children in his business, they increasingly began to take over. Last month, they asked to be appointed as his guardians due to “cognitive decline,” which would give them even more control of his business and finances.
Mr. Aldrin strongly denies that he is incompetent, and will soon be undergoing a competency examination.
Your family may not always have your best interests at heart
While we all like to believe that our family would never do anything to harm us, financially or otherwise, that is not always the case. Your children and family members may have money issues - or may simply be greedy - and see your nest egg as an easy target.
The amount of financial abuse targeting seniors is staggering. According to The True Link on Elder Financial Abuse 2015, seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse.
In Mr. Aldrin’s case, the lawsuit alleges improper use of credit cards and bank accounts, with nearly a half million dollars being transferred out of his savings account. It also alleges slander, due to statements made the Mr. Aldrin has dementia, which he denies.
Signs of financial elder abuse
The signs of financial elder abuse may be overt or subtle, and will typically increase over time if left unchecked. Signs include:
- You may give your child signing privileges on your checking account so that he can pay the bills, and soon money begins to disappear from your account.
- If your child goes shopping for you and has access to your credit card, he may start buying items for his own personal use.
- Business owners whose children have access to its inner workings may funnel money out of the business and into personal accounts, as happened in Mr. Aldrin’s case.
Protect yourself from financial elder abuse today
You don’t need to be rich or famous to protect yourself. Regardless the size of your nest egg, it is an important part of your retirement plan.
There are plans you can put in to place to protect yourself, and you should put them in place sooner rather than later – before financial abuse can even begin.
Simple – but powerful – steps in preventing financial abuse
- Have all of your income directly deposited into your bank account. This makes it difficult if not impossible for anyone else to get their hands on money flowing into your life.
- Hire a bookkeeper. If you don’t have someone you can trust 100 percent to pay your bills or help with finances, hire a reputable bookkeeper to do the job. It will be worth the cost in the long run.
- Get your affairs in order today. If you don’t have a will, advance healthcare directive, and durable power of attorney in place, you should do so immediately. The more of your wishes that are documented, the less opportunity others have of gaining the upper hand.
- Another step you might want to take is establishing a revocable trust, which allows a trusted individual the ability to manage your estate if you become disabled, but does not give them any ownership in your estate.
You have a long life ahead of you. Keeping yourself protected from financial abuse should be a priority today, so you can peacefully enjoy all of your tomorrows.