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How can I protect my elderly parents from financial predators?

It can be a nightmare to suspect another family member, friend or caregiver is exploiting your elderly parents financially. When parents live nearby, it can be easy to verify whether your suspicions are warranted, but as is often the case, thousands of miles can separate your watchful eyes from your physically or mentally deteriorating parents.

There are steps that you can proactively take to prevent these scenarios. All are best done pre-need, when a parent is mentally capable to participate in these decisions.

-- Retain a certified public accountant to assess your parents' financial health and if there are substantial assets, consult with a financial planner to ensure that they get the most bang for their investment bucks.

-- An estate planning attorney can update or craft powers of attorney, wills and trusts to eliminate the ability of anyone to disperse or redirect any assets.

-- Carefully consider who should have your parents' powers of attorney. Many couples want to invest each other with that duty, but what if both were injured in the same accident and are incapacitated? Both could develop dementia and be unable to make good decisions, so it may be better to select one adult child or even a responsible but detached non-relative who can dispassionately determine the best course.

-- Checks and balances can be employed, such as requiring two signatures on checks. It may be better for one sibling to be their financial representative and another to represent their medical interests.

-- Whenever possible, arrange for direct payment of monthly bills from your parents' main account. Benefits should also be direct-deposited to eliminate the need for check-cashing and the opportunity for theft and exploitation.

-- If caregivers become a necessity, meticulously screen their background using national checks. Surveillance cameras might be appropriate in some settings.

-- Photograph all valuables and jewel so if anything disappears, pawn shops can be alerted. Valuables should be locked away with photos kept off-premises. Shred documents with identifiable information on them and have mail delivered to a secure location.

It may become necessary to seek a conservatorship for parents with dementia in order to protect them. A Colorado estate planning attorney can advise you on how to proceed.

Source: ConsumerReports.org, "Protecting Mom & Dad's money: What to do when you suspect financial abuse," accessed April. 02, 2015

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