Financial elder abuse is the most common form of elder abuse. As our population continues to get older elder abuse is becoming more common. This may be a major problem in Nova Scotia where the percentage of the population over 65 is greater than the percentage of the population under 15 for the first time ever.
If you are an older adult, or will soon be an older adult, there are ways you can protect yourself and your money from financial elder abuse.
Ensure your financial and legal affairs are in order, and documents are up to date
This includes investments, pensions, chequing and savings account and your bill payments. Ensure all your accounts are secure and checked regularly to make sure they are not being accessed without your knowledge. You also need to make sure your legal affairs are up to date. This includes powers of attorney, your will, and final wishes.
Keep extra copies of any paperwork you sign
If you sign any financial documents, make sure you always fully understand what you are signing and keep extra copies on hand. You may also want to have a witness you trust on-hand when signing documents to ensure you understand what you are signing and what will happen when those papers are signed.
Open all your mail and review all statements personally
Take an active role in the management of your finances and investments. Personally open and read all statements you receive. If you have questions about something in your statements or don’t understand something, take them to your adviser, call your bank, or ask your lawyer.
Do not let family or friends pressure you into financial decisions
The final decision of what is to be done with your money belongs to you. Do not let family or friends pressure you into making financial decisions you are not comfortable with. You should always have independent legal advice when signing legal documents.
Consult a lawyer whenever lending money, transferring ownership of property, reviewing your will and afterlife decisions, and making decisions around caregiver arrangements
All major financial decisions should be done in consultation with a lawyer or with your adviser. If you are signing any official financial papers, doing so in front of a lawyer or notary is advisable.
Fully understand any power of attorney agreements you sign
If you decide to enter into any power of attorney agreements, ensure you fully understand what you are signing. Make sure you know what power you are giving and who you are giving it to. Don’t be coerced into signing a power of attorney, and if you become uncomfortable with power of attorney arrangements after signing, make sure you know the process and procedures for rescinding the agreement.
Never sign anything you do not understand
Do not sign any financial papers that you do not understand. Always ask as may questions as necessary to get the answers you require to fully understand what you are signing. If you do not get these answers or still do not understand what you are signing, do not sign anything until you do.