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Estate planning and financial exploitation

We write a lot in this blog about the importance of estate planning, particularly when it comes to drafting a will and setting up appropriate trusts. While these certainly are important steps to providing individuals security and peace of mind, in some cases estate planning vehicles can be used to exploit the very individuals they are intended to protect.

So-called financial exploitation often goes largely unreported. In some cases, an individual may suffer from mental or health conditions that render them unable to realize that anything amiss is occurring. Other times, an individual is too embarrassed or ashamed that they are being taken advantage of by a trusted advisor or family member.

Examples of financial fraud include trust administrators who add on additional surcharges for their services or when there are sudden changes to how a trust's funds are being distributed. In many cases, proving that such illicit activity is taking place can be difficult to both detect and prove.

As more baby boomers age, however, many worry that cases of financial exploitation and fraud will only continue to increase. Sadly, the majority of acts related to financial exploitation are carried out by family members or designated caregivers. In order to prevent being the victim of such exploitative actions, individuals would be wise to ensure they meet with both an attorney and financial advisor.

Individuals who believe they have been the victim of financial exploitation would be wise to consult with an estate planning attorney. A legal professional can help determine whether any deviation of funds has occurred and also help ensure for the best possible legal outcome related to recouping lost funds.

Source: Cleveland Jewish News, "Exploitation a potential estate planning concern," Michael C. Butz, March 14, 2013

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