Economic Abuse of The Elderly
It is more prevalent than anyone would like to admit. Economic predators are taking advantage of senior citizens who've lost their capacity to responsibly handle their financial affairs. The specific scenario may differ from incident to incident, but basically the scams are quite similar and follow specific patterns.
In one set up, a younger person or couple befriends an elderly person, and gradually insinuates their way into the elder's daily life -- as a new best friend, companion, assistant, good samaritan neighbor -- until the senior citizen becomes dependent upon them, and trusts them enough to readily relinquish some or all control over a portion or all of their assets. In other cases, a financial professional convinces a senior citizen to invest in a financial product -- an annuity or stocks, for example, or reverse mortgage -- this is either inappropriate given the elder's age and/or physical health, or is really just a vehicle for embezzlement. Sometimes, predators even go into extended care facilities where they approach residents who are suffering from some degree of dementia and get them to sign documents that give power of attorney to a complete stranger.
It's horrible, heartbreaking and, as the film shows, all too frequent.
From Personal ExperiencesThat's what happened to documentary producer Pamela Glasner's family -- a stranger approached her father, who was suffering from dementia and housed in a long term care facility, and got her dad to sign a document giving him power of attorney and access to her father's assets. And, there was nothing that could be done about it. That, and similar crimes, are nearly impossible to prosecute when they're brought to the attention of authorities. But, most often, they don't even get reported.
In another case presented in the film, two sisters are currently fighting to cancel a reverse mortgage sold to their parents, although the sale was completely inappropriate for the aging couple. Their father was terminally ill with cancer and their mother was suffering from dementia. In order to uphold the terms of the reverse mortgage, which requires the signatories to continue to live in the house to prevent it from being sold, their mother was unable to move to a long term care facility where she would be properly cared for, as had been their father's intention and dying wish. Additionally, the mortgage gave the parents $80,000 on a house worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The sisters are actually making headway with their case, but it's a huge bother and battle that they should not have to pursue.
Inside Jobs, Too
All too often, the predator is a family member or trusted friend. That's what happened to Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, whose fortune was drained by his step son, who was working as Rooney's personal assistant and manager, and assumed responsibility for negotiating Rooney's contracts, depositing his income checks and paying his bills. Rooney discovered some time ago that his step son was cheating him, saying that he had less income than he actually did, and diverting monies from Rooney's accounts to his own. Even when he figured this out, Rooney had difficulty addressing the issue because he was concerned about hurting his wife. Eventually, Rooney had to confront his step son because he and his wife didn't have sufficient funds to cover food and other daily expenses. "If it can happen to Mickey Rooney," the star says in the film, "it can happen to anyone."
A Cautionary Documentary
And Rooney's statement has veracity.Last Will and Embezzlement raises red flags about economic exploitation of elders. It is a cautionary documentary.
The film presents credible stats indicating that during the next decade or so, as baby boomers, who collectively control 80 percent of private wealth fight, enter their senior years, there will be an enormous boom in the economic exploitation of the elderly. Fortunately, the film suggests that there are social welfare organizations that provide reliable supervision of personal finances as a service to senior citizens and their families -- but even they must be supervised to make sure they're doing the job properly.
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- Title: Last Will and Embezzlement
- Filmmakers: Pamela Glasner (Producer) and Deborah Louise Robinson (Director)
- US Theatrical Release Date: April 13, 2012 (limited)
- Running Time: 84 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Location: Florida, USA
- Language: English
- Production Company: Starjack Entertainment
- Official Website