Elder Abusers Use The Legal System Also

You might be surprised that elder abusers aren’t necessarily worried or scared of the legal system.

In my experience, most abusers as a personality trait believe that they can get away with the abuse because they believe that other people are stupid, or that they simply won’t be caught, or that other people won’t make the effort or don’t have the time and resources to stop them.

You might also be surprised to know that elder abusers use or try to use the legal system to help them commit the abuse. Here are a few of the ways that I have seen.

-The abuser calls the police and complains that other people, the good people, are abusing, or mistreating, stealing from, or unduly influencing the elder. The abuser tries to turn the tables on the good people so that the abuser can then have the elder victim alone.

-Similarly, the abuser calls adult protective services and complains that the good people are mistreating or stealing from the elder.

-Another example, the abuser obtains an attorney who will draft a will, or trust, or power of attorney for the elder naming the abuser, and the attorney does not understand or sufficiently care about his or her ethical and legal obligations to the elder who is the attorney’s client.

-Or the abuser files a contest of the elder’s will or trust documents.

-Except in situations of immediate theft, typically the abuser works at this for a continuous period of time taking small steps forward, influencing the elder against the good people and eventually getting the assets, documents or evidence that help the abuser.

And in another example, the abuser promises the elder victim something that the elder wants, something that will make the elder happy, such as . . . “if you sign the power of attorney I will be able to take you home,” even when it’s clear that medically or for daily care the elder should stay in the nursing home.

The list goes on. These are cases that are difficult and time consuming, and can be expensive to prosecute – it takes good people to take action.

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San Mateo County’s New Elder and Dependent Adult Protection Team – The Good and the Insufficient

You may have heard that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors this month passed a resolution funding the Elder and Dependent Adult Protection Team “EDAPT” (also sometimes known as or similar to “FAST” or “Financial Abuse Specialist Team” in other counties such as Los Angeles) for two years from the County’s Measure A funding. The initiative is funded with approximately $3.13 million taxpayer dollars over two years with the funding to begin July 1, 2015 and will run through June 2017. Click here for the link. The comments in this blog are my own. As you may know, I have handled trust, estate, conservatorship and elder abuse litigation cases for over 20 years. I have become a bit more expressive or activist in my comments. These comments are not criticisms of anyone who is trying to combat elder and dependent adult abuse. But the fact is that resources are inadequate to identify and then to stop and remedy abuse. And although resources will always be inadequate, one resource, private attorneys, is entirely or almost entirely unutilized in this battle. Until entities that receive reports of abuse arrange for a procedure to refer cases to private attorneys there is absolutely no way that those agencies, including Adult Protective Services (APS), the District Attorney, the police, county counsel, etc. can come close to protecting the abused and remedying the damages that they suffer. In fact, the link above seems to indicate that the new EDAPT initiative is primarily a community educational program, which does not involve legal or court system remedies.

Let me provide you with a quick example that should help to explain the situation and the grossly inadequate resources. The Link above states “Research shows that for every one case of older adult abuse [note that this apparently does not include dependent adult abuse] that is reported – there are another 24 that go unreported.”  The link also states “Reports of older adult abuse have been on the rise as the county’s older adult population continues to grow – which is estimated to grow by over 70% by 2030.” I don’t know how many incidents of abuse Adult Protective Services receives in an average month in San Mateo County – maybe one of my readers will respond with the average monthly number. Let’s just say that in an average month APS receives 30 reports of elder or older adult abuse (again, we are not even counting the additional cases of dependent adult abuse reporting). I suspect that the reports exceed 30 per month; however, if research indicates that for every report of older abuse there are another 24 that go unreported, that would be 30 x 25, or 750 incidents of adult abuse in an average month. Do you know how much time and effort it takes to stop and then remedy just one case of elder abuse through the court system? Well . . . that number does vary from case to case, but I can tell you that based on my experience in my cases, the number of hours is huge and the time (i.e., months or even years) that it can take also can be staggering. I can also fully confirm that abusers actively fight legal actions that are brought against them. They know or believe that resources are limited and inadequate, and that they might stand a reasonable chance of beating the system.

The new initiative is for two years, at an average funding of roughly $1.5 million per year. The funding started July 1, 2015, so we already have 3 months done in the first year of the initiative. I have been looking for a detailed two-year plan for the initiative – perhaps one of my readers can tell me where I can find that plan. I have written and videoed about this topic before, and the inadequate resources. Again, I fully support the efforts of everyone who is fighting elder and dependent adult abuse, but let me say that resources are inadequate, and you really, really need to bring vetted private attorneys into the effort through referrals or by whatever means makes the report receiving agencies (i.e., APS, etc.) comfortable.

Best, Dave Tate, Esq. (and licensed inactive CPA), San Mateo County, San Francisco Bay Area, and throughout California