How to Prevent Elder Abuse with Estate Planning

December 2, 2022

Elder abuse is a complex issue affecting thousands of Americans every year. Studies have shown that 1 in 10 people aged 60+ will experience some form of elder abuse, bringing the figure of older Americans facing abuse to nearly five million yearly. Elder abuse is a serious problem that robs the elderly of their security, dignity, and in some cases, their life. 

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is the mistreatment of the elderly, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, emotional abuse, and abandonment. Anyone can commit these horrific acts, from family members to staff at an assisted living facility and other residents in a nursing home.

While numerous laws have been enacted to protect seniors from abuse, the problem is only now becoming a growing concern in the United States. It's predicted that there will be more seniors than children in the United States by 2035. With the increasing number of elders in the country, there is a growing need to address the issue of elder abuse to ensure our aging population is well protected. One of the simplest ways to prevent elder abuse and protect yourself and your family is through estate planning.

How Estate Planning Can Prevent Elder Abuse

Estate planning is a legal process of creating a detailed plan to make it clearly known who will receive your assets upon your death. In addition, it states who will be in control of your medical decisions if you become incapacitated. An estate plan is often created with the help of an estate planning attorney.

To learn how to set up a proper estate plan in Indiana, contact Indiana estate planning attorneys at Applegate & Dillman Elder Law for help. A skilled estate planning attorney can help prevent elder abuse by restricting who has access to assets and finances and under what conditions. In addition, various implements like trusts, wills, and power of attorney can be used to plan your estate to ensure abuse doesn't happen to you.

Creating a Trust

A trust is a legal arrangement to govern the administration of assets, including cash and property. It determines who will receive your assets after you pass away. Assets documented under a trust can range from bank accounts to property and jewelry. A valid trust can help prevent elder abuse by providing a plan to distribute your assets.

This means you will have total control over your assets even when you become incapacitated or deceased. By creating a trust, you retain your dignity, and people can't misappropriate your financial assets because you have a proper protection plan. In addition, a trust will make it much more difficult to fall victim to manipulation and other forms of elder abuse. By using a trust, you can:

  • Reduce estate taxes.
  • Transfer assets to your beneficiaries privately without undertaking the probate process.
  • Provide ongoing income to a minor child, spouse, or someone with special needs.
  • Contribute to a favorite charity.

Appoint a power of attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives another person the authority to act on your behalf when you are unable to make rational individual decisions. There are two primary types of powers of attorney: financial and healthcare. Financial powers of attorney manage your assets and are responsible for making all your financial decisions. They also determine who will be in charge of your affairs if you become incapacitated. On the other hand, healthcare powers of attorney handle your healthcare matters.

Having a power of attorney is beneficial because it can prevent elder abuse. When appointing your power of attorney, it's crucial that you trust them wholeheartedly since this is someone you are going to trust with your hard-earned assets. And they must be able to put your needs and interests above their own. In most cases, seniors are easy targets for financial exploitation, as they are deemed to have little ability to safeguard themselves.

Common indications of financial elder abuse include fraudulent signatures, unexpected changes in spending, and missed bill payments. Having a power of attorney assures you that your finances are secure and makes it difficult to fall victim to financial elder abuse. It also reduces your risk of emotional abuse because you will be harder to manipulate into surrendering your finances.

Establishing Healthcare Directives and healthcare documents

Setting up a healthcare directive allows you to make your advance care wishes known by appointing someone to make decisions regarding your healthcare and treatment when you can no longer make those decisions. For instance, if you are temporarily in a coma, have Alzheimer's, or have been involved in a severe car accident, you cannot express yourself. This is where a healthcare directive lets the doctors know what measures they want to implement in a given situation.

Your healthcare documents will contain written directives for your healthcare and treatment decisions that should be used in case you cannot verbalize them. By setting up your healthcare directives and healthcare documents, you can help alleviate elder abuse. It can also prevent someone from deprivation, withholding treatment, or exposing you to more harm to get your assets.

Some people neglect seniors' medical needs, exposing them to physical, emotional, or mental harm. With a healthcare directive, you can avoid elder abuse because you will have someone on your side to ensure all your medical needs and wishes are fulfilled.

Contact Our Indiana Estate Planning Attorneys Today

If you need help planning your estate to prevent potential elder abuse, you can trust the estate planning attorneys at Applegate & Dillman Elder Law. As a full-service legal firm, we provide expert estate planning services in Indiana to help protect you and your aging family members.

Ready to get started? Please complete our online contact form or call our office at (317) 492-9569 to speak to our lead estate planning attorneys, Carol Applegate and Lisa Dillman.

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