According to the Administration on Aging, the number of Americans over 65 years of age will more than double over the next fifty years. The number of Americans 65 or older, which numbered around 52 million in 2018, will exceed 98 million by 2060.
It behooves lawyers and clients alike to be aware of the legal and personal implications of aging. Issues ranging from financial abuse of the elderly to the need for proper estate planning are likely to garner greater and deserved attention as the population matures. Further statistics are illuminating and troubling.
Between 2013 and 2017, those over age 70 lost an average of $41,800 to elder financial exploitation, according to an analysis by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. People with dementia are at greater risk of elder abuse than those without. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, approximately 5.1 million American elders over 65 have some kind of dementia. Close to half of all people over 85, the fastest growing segment of our population, have Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia. For the many of us with loved ones who have been victimized, the issue strikes close to home.
Planning ahead for financial well-being and the possibility of diminished financial capacity is critical. Brandon Borgmann, an estate planning attorney in Columbus, Ohio, comments, “Most clients fail to think about potential incapacity when it comes to estate planning. Failing [to do so] can have a devastating effect on a client’s estate. An unsettling number of people prey upon incapacitated people for financial gain.”
Planning and vigilance are both a personal and family responsibility. Common sense steps as a family include talking with loved ones and educating them on risks, solicitations, and scams, learning the signs of elder abuse and financial fraud, getting to know your loved one’s team (financial, medical, and dental), setting checks and balances to minimize chances of fraud, and becoming familiar with loved ones’ planning documents.
Personal legal preparedness is equally important and in many instances will include well-drafted and responsibly used financial powers of attorney and certain asset protection trusts. If you have questions about these devices, or about related matters of living wills and medical powers of attorney, please feel free to contact this office.