While laws in different states may differ in how they define Elder Financial Exploitation, dishonesty, deceit, and misappropriation of assets are common elements underlying the various definitions. Florida Elder Financial Exploitation states:
A person who stands in a position of trust and confidence with vulnerable adult and knowingly, by deception or intimidation, obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, a vulnerable adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive a vulnerable adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult; or endeavors to obtain or use, the vulnerable adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult.
Exploitation may include, but is not limited to:
- Breaches of fiduciary relationships, such as the misuse of a power of attorney or the abuse of guardianship duties, resulting in the unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of property.
- Unauthorized taking of personal assets.
- Misappropriation , misuse, or transfer of moneys belonging to a vulnerable adult from a personal or joint account.
- Intentional or negligent failure to effectively use a vulnerable adult’s income and assets for the necessities required for that person’s support and maintenance.
Another state describes the culpability as, “The improper use of an adult’s funds, property or resources by another individual including, but not limited to fraud, false pretense, embezzlement, conspiracy, forgery, falsifying records, coerced property transfer on denial of access to assets.” While the National Center on Elder Abuse succinctly defines it as, “The illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets.”
Elder financial exploitation can take various forms from committing forgery to exercising undue influence with the senior that may result in giving the perpetrator a power of attorney, agreeing to unnecessary home repairs or making unsuitable investments. Regardless of the method, the intent is to deprive the senior of money and assets.