California Law Addressing Financial Elder Abuse Continues to Evolve

California elder abuse attorneys are increasingly being called upon to litigate claims relating to financial elder abuse. Financial elder abuse law in California has changed significantly over the past several years. The law has changed over time to broaden the definition of financial elder abuse and to strengthen the legal system’s position against those who set out to take advantage of the elderly.

One difficulty with financial elder abuse is that when most people hear the word “abuse” they immediately associate it with physical abuse. When there is no evidence that an elderly person is being physically abused, many people believe that the abuse is somehow less serious. That is far from the truth, and the fact is, financial elder abuse involves a violation of the senior’s trust with the intent to cause harm. Such callous behavior should not be taken lightly.

Financial elder abuse is defined in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15610.30. The code says: “Financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity… takes, secrets, appropriates, obtains, or retains [or assists in doing any of these] real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful purpose or with intent to defraud or both.”

This newest version of the law is designed to give the elderly protection from abuse irrespective of the elder’s mental capacity. Lawmakers in California correctly recognized that the elderly are vulnerable targets for those who wish to take advantage of them regardless of their capacity to understand the implications of their financial decisions.

The problem with financial elder abuse claims is that because the statute in its current form is relatively new, there is not much case law available to interpret the language of the law. The lawsuits that have been brought do not usually reach the appeals court and therefore are not widely reported. Even more problematic is the fact that many elders are not even aware that they have been financially harmed and thus never pursue a claim against the perpetrator.

The California legislature, however, is in the process of tackling one aspect of this problem. A new bill introduced in the house will allow for a right of attachment in financial elder abuse claims, which should work to incentive attorneys to take such cases. Currently, one of the problems with an attorney taking financial elder abuse cases is whether they will ever be able to collect from the criminals. Allowing for attachment would provide a more promising way to recover money and encourage efforts to recoup assets that have been taken from the elderly.

Financial elder abuse is a serious problem in California and many seniors in the state are being targeted. Christopher C. Walton is a California elder abuse attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving financial elder abuse. If somebody you know has been the victim of financial elder abuse, please call (866) 338-7079 for a free and confidential consultation.