California Elder Financial Abuse

The Golden State recognized in the 1980s that many older residents were the victims of crimes where they lost their property. As a result, the legislature passed California elder financial abuse laws to help provide penalties to people who wrongfully took assets from older Americans and to help these seniors recover their money. 

The team at Stone & Sallus offers years of experience helping elder financial abuse victims in California get the justice they deserve. We take a personal approach to your case and are here to fight your battle. Here is a brief overview of what to expect when you suspect elder financial abuse in California for someone you care about or support.

What Is Elder Financial Abuse Under California Law? 

The basic tenets of a successful California elder financial abuse case revolve around satisfying the guidelines of the statute, which focus on the knowing taking of assets from someone over the age of 65. More specifically, if the case were to go to trial, a jury might expect to hear from a judge instructions that can include:

  1. The plaintiff took or hid property or assisted therein;
  2. The victim of the crime was at least 65 years old;
  3. The plaintiff did so with the intent to defraud or for wrongful use or knew that it was likely to be harmful

These are key considerations in any claim brought by a victim or his or her loved ones, and an experienced legal representative will help establish the foundation of a case based on finding evidence to support each element.

What Laws Protect Victims of Financial Elder Abuse in California? 

California has enacted several laws within the California Welfare and Institutions Code and the California Penal Code to hold individuals accountable for mistreating the elderly, imposing both criminal and civil liabilities. These statutes specifically prohibit physical and mental abuse, elder financial exploitation, and neglect of the elderly.

How to Report Financial Elder Abuse

In California, you have two options when you want to report financial elder abuse: you can contact your county’s Adult Protective Services office or you may reach out to your local law enforcement agency. The state’s department of Financial Protection and Innovation has a page with financial elder abuse report forms that you can use to assist you in making your reports.

While those are the state and local agencies you can reach out to, you may also want to consider finding legal representation to help recover any lost funds.

What is the statute of limitations for elder abuse? 

The length of time that you have to report crimes regarding financial elder abuse in California is relatively long: four years. This is often irrelevant if the situation is caught early as the statute of limitations only begins once the crime is finished and most embezzlers will continue until accounts are completely empty.

However, while the statute of limitations is several years long, that does not mean that there are not significant benefits to starting the process with the help of a financial elder abuse attorney as soon as possible. For one, the victim of the crime has a limited amount of time in order to recover any lost funds or property caused by the alleged abuse. For another, litigation is rarely short.

Getting the Compensation You Deserve

There are a variety of penalties for someone who is accused of elder financial abuse, including the possibility of criminal charges regarding embezzlement, financial fraud or theft, according to California Penal Code § 368. However, in most cases, a victim and their loved ones simply want their assets back and as quickly as possible.

State law provides financial elder abuse lawyers a variety of ways to obtain compensation for their clients. In addition to the stolen assets, the accused may be expected to pay any gains or interest made with the funds while they used it. There is also the possibility of treble damages (meaning someone who took $100,000 from an elderly Californian could be asked to repay $300,000) as well as punitive damages, which can lead to a rapid settlement depending on the circumstances.

Tips for Seniors to Protect Themselves from Financial Abuse

Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about common financial scams and tactics used by fraudsters targeting seniors.

Guard Personal Information: Be cautious about sharing personal and financial information, especially over the phone or online, and only provide it to trusted individuals or institutions.

Regularly Monitor Accounts: Routinely review bank statements, credit reports, and financial transactions to identify any suspicious or unauthorized activity promptly.

Set Spending Limits: Consider setting daily or weekly spending limits on accounts to help prevent large, unauthorized transactions.

Utilize Direct Deposits: Opt for direct deposit for income sources like Social Security or pensions to reduce the risk of lost or stolen checks.

Establish Trusted Contacts: Designate trusted family members or friends to be involved in financial discussions and decisions, providing an additional layer of protection.

Be Skeptical of Unsolicited Offers: Approach unsolicited offers, whether by phone, mail, or email, with skepticism. Verify the legitimacy of the offer before providing any personal information or making financial decisions.

Stay Connected: Maintain an active social network to reduce the risk of isolation, as social connections can serve as an additional layer of protection against financial exploitation.

Educate Yourself: Attend workshops or seminars on financial literacy for seniors to enhance your understanding of potential risks and protective measures.

Consult Trusted Professionals: Seek advice from trusted financial advisors, attorneys, or family members before making significant financial decisions, especially if pressured by unfamiliar individuals or organizations.

Report Suspected Abuse: If you suspect financial abuse, report it to local law enforcement or adult protective services. Early intervention can help prevent further harm.

What to Do If You’re Falsely Accused of Financial Elder Abuse

Courts in the Golden State are rapidly learning that when seniors are at risk, some cast a wide net in trying to find restitution. If you have been falsely accused of financial elder abuse, then you need to consider the assistance of a legal professional who is able to navigate the local court system and demonstrate your innocence.

Keep in mind that you may be the target of a scared loved one, or someone looking to cover up their own potential malfeasance. As the legal system learns more about how these protections for older Californians can be used against the wrong parties, you, too, can benefit from the aid of an experienced elder financial abuse lawyer.