In today’s world, there is an increasing risk of privacy violations in which personal, sensitive information may be exposed and your identity stolen, setting in motion a nightmare scenario that can haunt you and your loved ones for years to come. The public nature of probate and guardianship proceedings (or one’s increased dependency due to illness, disability or cognitive impairments) can contribute to scams, financial abuse and unwanted activity by predators. Here are concrete steps that you and your family (especially seniors) can take to prevent these undesirable outcomes:
PROBATE IS PUBLIC RECORD – BUILD PRIVACY WITH YOUR TRUST
Don’t be fooled by the notion that “simpler is better” when it comes to designing your estate plan. Events following one’s death or incapacity are far too often complicated by uninformed decisions made while still living and healthy; leaving loved ones to manage the resulting crisis and chaos. By relying on probate or guardianship legal proceedings, it will become necessary for your estate to
be handled in a public, open-court process, which means that records, information and data can be obtained by just about anybody – including unscrupulous businesses and scamsters – wanting to get them. Using a legal arrangement known as a Revocable Living Trust (or simply “Trust”) handles your affairs with complete privacy during your incapacity and after your death in a way that no other process can. A Trust also generally gives your decision-makers more control over your estate and affairs, with fewer obstacles, than even a Power of Attorney agent.
OTHER STEPS TO TAKE TO PREVENT FINANCIAL ABUSE
- Arrange for account oversight to ensure that someone, preferably a designated decision-maker, can see if any suspicious activity or unusually large transactions are occurring in your accounts.
- Nothing prevents financial abuse or stops it in its tracks better than frequently visiting online accounts. Either the potential predator will see that he can’t isolate the senior and take advantage of her, or family members or friends will notice the abuse before it goes too far.
- Credit cards are now available that allow another person to monitor the activity of the cardholder and to limit both the amount she spends and where she can spend it. One of these is the True Link card https://www.truelinkfinancial.com/.
- It is quite easy to register your telephone number with the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry either online at https://www.donotcall.gov/ or by calling 888.382.1222. While this may not stop someone intent on defrauding a senior, it should help reduce calls from salespeople.
- At https://dmachoice.thedma.org/ the Direct Marketing Association permits you to limit the amount of catalogs, credit card offers and other direct mail pieces you or a loved one receives.
- You can sign up for Nomorobo at http://nomorobo.com/ to block robo calls. Unfortunately, it does not work with all telephone providers, including Verizon.
HELP FOR YOU
Consulting with an elder law attorney, such as the Aspen Legacy Planning, can help explain and prepare a Revocable Living Trust or a detailed Durable Power of Attorney to assist with financial management; as well as to advise on the best protective steps to take in each situation and provide additional oversight to discourage financial abuse