In my previous post I explained elder financial abuse and your obligation, at some point, to say no to the elder who wants to give you money and property. After the explanation you asked, “But why would an elder who loved me enough to give me money then turn around and sue me for financial elder abuse?”
The answer is that the parent doesn't sue. The parent becomes disabled with dementia and the parent's conservator or trustee sues. The conservator might sue because the gifts have made the elder unable to pay for long term care or unable to qualify for Medicaid. The conservator might also sue to get the money back so it can go to the elder's heirs when he or she dies. Lets say a grandchild talks demented grandma into giving her a whole bunch of money. The children of grandma get a conservator appointed to handle grandma's financial affairs. The conservator then sues the grandchild to get the money back so that it can go to the children according to the will when she dies.
After an elder has died, the representative of the estate may sue for elder financial abuse those people who received money from the elder while she was still alive. In these cases, the object is to squeeze money from one heir and give it to another. The child who received money is forced to give up her inheritance to get rid of the elder financial abuse case. Disgruntled heirs like this idea and lawyers can make a lot of money doing it.
Let's say your elderly mom gets most of her legal advice from her hairdresser. Let's say further that you are on her bank account so you can help with her bills and she has named you her power of attorney. She comes home from the beauty parlor one day and tells you she will lose all her property to taxes and probate unless she puts your name on the deed to her house right away. She says she wants you to have her house when she dies, tells you to get a deed written, and says not to tell your brothers about it. Ignoring my advice from my last post about accepting gifts from elders, you do what she says.
Mom then dies without a will. The money in the checking goes to you because your name is on the account. The house goes to you because your name is on the deed. And your brothers are furious.
The brothers could challenge the deed to you claiming that you had a confidential relationship with your mother and “unduly influenced” her to give the house to you. This case would be somewhat like challenging a will. A lawyer might, however, try a different strategy. He gets one of your brothers appointed personal representative of your mother's estate and then sues you for elder financial abuse. By claiming elder financial abuse the brother can seek triple damages and attorney fees. In addition, he has the inflammatory claim that you abused your mother. Rather than looking like greedy heirs, the brothers look like knights on white horses coming to the rescue of your poor abused mother.
Cases like the one described above come in all sizes and shapes, but they share one characteristic. In each of them the elder financial abuse claim serves the interest of heirs (or those who take pursuant to a will or trust) who are dissatisfied with their share of the elder's estate. What once would have arisen in a will contest or a suit to set aside a deed is brought to court as elder financial abuse.
There are elder abuse cases in which someone is truly trying to get back from bad people money that those people took from a helpless elder. These cases are not as common as you think because these kinds of bad people are criminals and are not worth suing. They spent all the money on drugs and couldn't pay it back if they wanted to (which they don't). Many elder abuse cases, however, are not like that. They are will contests in disguise, serving the interests of people trying to maximize their inheritance.