Family Member Theft

Financial abuse against seniors is often committed by family members. According to reports from Adult Protective Services more than 60% of financial elder abuse cases involve a family member.

Family member theft can start with a sincere desire to protect a senior from harming themselves financially. A family member gets the senior to agree to add their name to a bank account. With no legal authority, such as a durable power of attorney, the family member begins to use the senior’s money to pay the senior’s bills.

Theft occurs when the family member begins to use the senior’s money for their own benefit. The senior unknowingly begins paying for the family member’s groceries, utilities, car repairs, etc. The family member rationalizes that he or she is entitled to the money because he or she is taking care of the senior without compensation.

This  feeling of entitlement can escalate into the senior’s home being used to provide housing to multiple family members. Seniors may be asked to pay for a remodel of a family member’s home with the empty promise of life long care. Too often the senior’s assets have been exhausted by family members instead of being used for the senior’s care.

Family member theft is growing dramatically.  Adult children are expecting to be supported by their parents rather than finding healthier alternatives. Seniors are being emotionally abused with threats of family isolation if financial support is not given.

To protect yourself:

  • Maintain financial oversight by building a team of accountability that includes non-family members
  • Document and enforce the terms of any loans given to family members
  • Prioritize your financial needs ahead of family members’ needs
  • Review all documents with a trusted third party before signing.