What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

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CommitmentDevice
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What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by CommitmentDevice »

It looks like my grandma might be financially exploited by one of her children. This family member oversees my grandma's finances and just received a fishy $350K gift from my grandma.

Fishy because:
  • Grandma's capacity to make her own decisions is highly in doubt
  • The transaction was done in secret and denied when asked about it
  • The check was written in the family member's handwriting
  • Grandma left a distressed voice message on another of her kids' phones saying she was getting cowed to do something that she didn't understand.
There are some signs that there might be a larger pattern of financial exploitation (capital gains reported on taxes from stock sales).

The counterpoint, to be fair, is that my grandma says the gift was given according to her wishes.

I'm trying to advise my grandma's other children how to navigate the situation. All of the siblings have powers of attorney. My thinking is that they need to talk to a lawyer as well as hire an accountant to get visibility into my grandma's financial history. Does that seem like the right advice? What types of specialties should they look for?

Oh, and the situation is being investigated by Adult Protective Services. Am I right to think that the siblings should be investigating this independently as well?

Many thanks for sharing your time and wisdom.
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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. »

sorry to hear this.

that's significant and you'll want to keep records of whatever the investigation yielded for future potential medicaid purposes (to substantiate it wasn't a gift, but abuse and/or not for the purposes of qualifying for medicaid and to prove you attempted to recoup the money).

have you called the police and reported this as well? probably should. the more investigations the better, especially because one might pass the buck but the other might take it more seriously.

does this child have any priors?

what's an accountant going to find except that money is missing and who it went to. you could get that yourself by looking through all the bank records. look through the bank records for the past few years or however long you think this has been going on. Question everything and anything. look for sudden transactions that are different from usual transactions. get copies of checks to see who wrote them out, etc. If a credit card bill was paid was it granma's or the child's? that sort of thing.

you might want to take the checkbook away if she's going to be tempted to write further checks.

i've had to advise clients to take an ATM card away and/or change accounts so the offending party couldn't keep using granma's acct like their own piggy bank.

you could also put this person on notice that an investigation is underway to prevent further stealing (or give the child a second thought about it).

does the child live with grandma? just because the child is living with her doesn't mean s/he needs to pay the bills. any of the poa's can and probably should do that instead. could see an eviction coming if you know what i mean.

has the deed to the house been changed to the child yet?? make sure that hasn't been done as well.

does the child have poa along with siblings? If so, that needs to be changed (new poa without offending child's name as POA).

i hate to see when this happens. obviously greed doesn't just apply to investing.
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CommitmentDevice
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by CommitmentDevice »

Thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts! I bolded the two questions that seem especially important.
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:01 pm have you called the police and reported this as well?
The adult protective services investigation includes an APS investigator as well as an officer from the local police department so the police are already involved.
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:01 pm does this child have any priors?
I don't think so.
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:01 pm what's an accountant going to find except that money is missing and who it went to. you could get that yourself by looking through all the bank records. look through the bank records for the past few years or however long you think this has been going on. Question everything and anything. look for sudden transactions that are different from usual transactions. get copies of checks to see who wrote them out, etc. If a credit card bill was paid was it granma's or the child's? that sort of thing.
That is a good idea. My grandma's other children could make records requests to my grandma's financial institutions and then I could help them interpret them. Part of me thinks it'd be complex but not complicated. Another part of me thinks it'd require more advanced financial forensics than I've got. Like, I think it'd be challenging to even know which financial institutions to query for records, and the types of paperwork they'd need to verify the request.
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:01 pm does the child live with grandma?
Nope.
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:01 pm has the deed to the house been changed to the child yet??
This question sparked some good reflection. Short answer is "not yet."
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:01 pm does the child have poa along with siblings? If so, that needs to be changed (new poa without offending child's name as POA).
This gets at the crux of the challenge I'm trying to advise the siblings on. I believe they'd need a lawyer to help them force a change in the POAs. What type of legal specialty would be the right fit?
Lee_WSP
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by Lee_WSP »

That's a very specific area of the law. Possibly probate since elder and disabled exploitation is grouped together generally.
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FiveK
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by FiveK »

CommitmentDevice wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:30 pmAnother part of me thinks it'd require more advanced financial forensics than I've got. Like, I think it'd be challenging to even know which financial institutions to query for records, and the types of paperwork they'd need to verify the request.
Searching for an Elder law attorney in her area might be useful.

To the quoted part: her 2019 tax return showing interest received would identify at least some banks; credit reports from the 3 main credit bureaus would shown open accounts.
123
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by 123 »

Allowing all the children access to Grandma's accounts with POAs is not really a good solution.

Depending on Grandma's condition and the state it could be useful to establislh a conservator (or a voluntary conservator) of Grandma's assets. This would likely be one of the children. The advantage of a conservatorship is periodic reporting and court supervision.

Depending on the total amount of Grandma's assets and the family dynamics it might be appropriate for a bank trust department to handle the assets and any disbursements. Yes there can be a hefty cost but it can change the family dynamics of having only 1 child having authority over the accounts.
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by tmcc »

you could try amending all siblings POA simultaneously such that any disbursement over the material threshhold must be approved by the majority of the siblings. anyone that does otherwise will have their POA revoked and will be required to return any and all money.
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Stinky
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by Stinky »

123 wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:32 am
Depending on Grandma's condition and the state it could be useful to establislh a conservator (or a voluntary conservator) of Grandma's assets. This would likely be one of the children. The advantage of a conservatorship is periodic reporting and court supervision.
This is the first thing that comes to my mind on a go forward basis.

And don’t let the black sheep child be the conservator.
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by carolinaman »

FiveK wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:01 am
CommitmentDevice wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:30 pmAnother part of me thinks it'd require more advanced financial forensics than I've got. Like, I think it'd be challenging to even know which financial institutions to query for records, and the types of paperwork they'd need to verify the request.
Searching for an Elder law attorney in her area might be useful.

To the quoted part: her 2019 tax return showing interest received would identify at least some banks; credit reports from the 3 main credit bureaus would shown open accounts.
+1 for elder law attorney and you should do this first! This person can bring in whatever expertise is needed to explore financial records and other things. They are very familiar with exploitation of elderly people.
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CommitmentDevice
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by CommitmentDevice »

Following your suggestions, I've advised the appropriate parties to find an elder law attorney. I sent them a list of highly rated attorneys from Avvo.com.
For reasons of discretion, I won't post an update on how it all plays out, but needless to say, I am grateful. Thank you.
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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. »

CommitmentDevice wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:30 pm This gets at the crux of the challenge I'm trying to advise the siblings on. I believe they'd need a lawyer to help them force a change in the POAs. What type of legal specialty would be the right fit?
any lawyer who does wills can and should do POAs. just make sure this child is not on either the health care or financial POA. And make sure the will wasn't changed unbenownst to family.
It's "Stay" the course, not Stray the Course. Buy and Hold works. You should really try it sometime. Get a plan: www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Investment_policy_statement
egrets
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by egrets »

arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 2:28 pm And make sure the will wasn't changed unbenownst to family.
How can they determine that? In my state there is no requirement to file wills before death. The black sheep could have had any random lawyer do a new will.
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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. »

egrets wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:55 pm
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 2:28 pm And make sure the will wasn't changed unbenownst to family.
How can they determine that? In my state there is no requirement to file wills before death. The black sheep could have had any random lawyer do a new will.
yep, so check with an attorney. if you're redoing POAs then he probably would redo the will as a package deal.

by the way, depending on when the POAs were done, they might need to be redone now anyway. Some entities are saying POAs are "stale" if they're past a certain date (shouldn't be, but some banks don't honor them if they were done long ago).

redoing a will could be a low cost form of insurance.

in fact, if this child was in the will, maybe they shouldn't be anymore considering s/he got his/hers before death.
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by BarbBrooklyn »

Be aware of the fact that if grandma tells APS "Oh no, all is fine, that was a gift", they won't proceed.

Grandmas in this situation frequently tell people " yes, it's all fine" just to get them to stop asking questions that are hard to answer.

Does grandma live alone? Does the miscreant have a key? Change the locks to a keypad with a combination that can be changed by the person with a master.

Be aware that gma can appear to be "sharp as a tack" and STILL have major cognitive issues like judgement. We thought my mom was fine. New doctor (geriatrician) picked up on something and sent her for neuropsych testing. She'd had a stroke and had the reasoning ability of a 6 year old. This is not medical advice.

Eldercare lawyer's office may also have a social worker who can advise on other issues, like what level of support gma might need going forward. Make use of that.

(edited for egregious typo; advise for advice)
Last edited by BarbBrooklyn on Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by bsteiner »

A lawyer who handles guardianships. Many but not all elder law attorneys do guardianships. The lawyer who handles your estate planning should be able to recommend someone.
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ResearchMed
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by ResearchMed »

arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 7:06 am
egrets wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:55 pm
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 2:28 pm And make sure the will wasn't changed unbenownst to family.
How can they determine that? In my state there is no requirement to file wills before death. The black sheep could have had any random lawyer do a new will.
yep, so check with an attorney. if you're redoing POAs then he probably would redo the will as a package deal.

by the way, depending on when the POAs were done, they might need to be redone now anyway. Some entities are saying POAs are "stale" if they're past a certain date (shouldn't be, but some banks don't honor them if they were done long ago).

redoing a will could be a low cost form of insurance.

in fact, if this child was in the will, maybe they shouldn't be anymore considering s/he got his/hers before death.
About changing POAs, especially in "problem situations" like this (but any situation could become a problem), I've always wondered how this would *really* work.

How would some entity (bank, etc.) know that there was a "new" POA and the one handed to them just now is no longer actually the correct one? Someone already having some, er, difficulties with honesty surely won't be saying that "there might be [or there IS] a newer POA, and what I'm handing you isn't valid anymore"!

And this could happen in all innocence if someone with a POA doc simply has no idea there is a new, improved version.

This must happen at least occasionally. What is done? Just let the money be stolen and spent (prosecuting won't necessarily get the money back) with <whatever> sanctions for the "thief"?

This has always nagged at me, thinking about "once a POA is out there..."

RM
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increment
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by increment »

ResearchMed wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 9:35 am How would some entity (bank, etc.) know that there was a "new" POA and the one handed to them just now is no longer actually the correct one? Someone already having some, er, difficulties with honesty surely won't be saying that "there might be [or there IS] a newer POA, and what I'm handing you isn't valid anymore"!

And this could happen in all innocence if someone with a POA doc simply has no idea there is a new, improved version.
Well, it seems that typically PoAs say something like, "Follow this PoA until you are specifically notified that it has been revoked. You will not be held responsible for not having been told that this one has been revoked." So part of the task of having a new PoA done should be knowing where old PoAs have been filed and submitting notices of revocation.
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by cheese_breath »

CommitmentDevice wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 7:51 pm ... Grandma's capacity to make her own decisions is highly in doubt...
Family services? Grandma might need a court approved guardian / conservator.
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ResearchMed
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Re: What type of accountant / lawyer for investigating $ exploitation of an elder?

Post by ResearchMed »

increment wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 9:48 am
ResearchMed wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 9:35 am How would some entity (bank, etc.) know that there was a "new" POA and the one handed to them just now is no longer actually the correct one? Someone already having some, er, difficulties with honesty surely won't be saying that "there might be [or there IS] a newer POA, and what I'm handing you isn't valid anymore"!

And this could happen in all innocence if someone with a POA doc simply has no idea there is a new, improved version.
Well, it seems that typically PoAs say something like, "Follow this PoA until you are specifically notified that it has been revoked. You will not be held responsible for not having been told that this one has been revoked." So part of the task of having a new PoA done should be knowing where old PoAs have been filed and submitting notices of revocation.
Uh, good luck with that, IF the named person is incompetent, and there is an errant POA agent...

There are more than a few threads here on BH where a POA was abused, so it's clear that not all such agents would take the time to track where they've filed the POAs, and some would willfully continue to use such.
Such an agent is unlikely to want to file any notice of revocation even if they knew precisely where all such POAs had been filed.

I don't see any solution, given there is no "Central Registry of ALL POAs Ever Executed"...
Yes, one should only choose such agents one feels are honest, but isn't that likely what happened in the situations that landed in trouble? Wouldn't all or most think, as is often the case (e.g., investing with family members), "Oh, that won't happen to me"?

It just gives us pause, as at least one of us will likely need someone to serve in this function, and obviously, the named person must take care of this in advance, so it could be quite some time.

I don't mean to sound paranoid, and we have no reason whatsoever to think *we* would ever land in such a situation with some agent, but... you know... "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you..." :wink:

RM
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