No one likes to think of a parent losing cognitive ability, yet it is common in older age. Unfortunately, dishonest people, including family members, like to take advantage of vulnerable seniors and defraud them of their assets both while they are living and even after they pass away. 

Financial elder abuse puts your inheritance, and that of the other beneficiaries, at risk. Know the signs to watch for in your parent’s behavior and estate plans. 

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While social connections are vital to health and happiness, a new friend should not be managing money for your parent or getting involved in other personal affairs. A red flag is if the new friend tries to keep your mom or dad from communicating with family to keep you all in the dark. Also, watch out for loans or cash gifts to the friend. 

New accounts 

Does your parent suddenly have many new accounts, insurance policies or credit cards? He or she may have succumbed to investment or insurance scams. 

Changes in financial habits 

Hopefully, you are familiar with your parent’s money habits, so you can catch any unusual changes, such as the following: 

  • Spending more money 
  • Making large withdrawals 
  • Getting behind in paying bills 
  • Taking financial risks 

Open and continuing communication can help you stay aware of your parent’s financial choices. Ask to see bills and statements to discover unusual charges or activity. 

Stress or anxiety 

Perhaps your parent seems more worried or glum than usual. He or she may express concern, regret or confusion over a recent financial decision, which is causing stress and anxiety. 

Updated estate plans 

Any sudden modifications to estate plans without good reason (such as a birth, death or marriage in the family) warrant further review. Look for new and/or missing beneficiaries or powers of attorney. If you suspect undue influence on your parent, you may take legal action even while your parent is alive. If you do not realize the fraud until after your parent’s death, you can contest the will.