Removing money from victims accounts illegally, changing of property names and taking personal property of the elder without his prior knowledge are some of the reasons which have been brought before a legal firm against the perpetrators. The legal firms provide services such as court actions, non court actions which assist the person to seek a lawyer, and also non legal actions where attorneys take action against the perpetrators through a perceived threat.
Courts can also protect the elderly who are not capable of managing their assets and are at risk of financial abuse by perpetrators through provision of legal guardians and volunteers who act as their trustees in asset management. The legal guardian’s work is the full responsibility of taking care of the elderly person who is unable to manage his/her financial affairs or is totally incompetent. A conservator is another person who provides general assistant in business and financial affairs of a person who may be competent and coherent but he/she is unable to manage his financial assets.
A guardian acts as a protector of the elderly so that he/she is not prone to perpetrators and financial abusers who may find him/her as an easy target for carrying out unscrupulous deals. (Wiehe, 1998). So as to detect whether or not the elderly is being financially abused, the guardians can use screening questions towards the elderly especially if he/she does not understand the financial terms and language that is used.
These questions maybe such as: who the manager of their properties is, whether another person has authority to access his accounts, whether they have suspected any suspicious deals, if anyone has forced them to sign any kind of documents, if they live with anyone and whether their caregiver demand more than they should get, among others. These questions will help the guardian to determine whether the elder is suffering from financial abuse or not and therefore be able to take measures which will protect the person against such perpetrators.
(Wiehe 1998). However, according to (Hardings, King & Kelly, 2002), pursuit of legal action by the elders and their lawyers against perpetrators can be very challenging due to various reasons. One is that the legal action pace is slow and burdensome to the old person and the perpetrator. There is always a possibility of the elderly person dying or losing his capacity before the start of the trial. The second reason is that elderly abuse cases may be hard to prove.
Delay or failure of recognizing the cause of victim’s problems may make physical evidence unavailable, witnesses may be unavailable and the capacity of the victim to testify may be questioned due to lack of capacity at the time of the action or the capacity has diminished or lost in the period of the trial. Another reason is due to unavailability of resources by the perpetrator to satisfy the judgment which maybe made. The final reason is that the legal action may not be financially viable for the elderly person as well as the lawyer.
The compensatory damages to be given may be low as compared to the person’s life expectancy, his/her physical or mental status. The attorney’s fee maybe unavailable and disciplinary damages may not be awarded to the victim if the facts of the case don’t support their compensatory damages. However, the lawyers and their clients may overcome these challenges by freezing of the victims assets which were exploited may be carried to ensure inaccessibility by the perpetrators and freezing of bank accounts may also be done so as to prevent loss of assets.
Consumer protection laws may also be used to provide cause of action against the individuals who have exploited the elder financially. Laws like the California Elder and Dependent Adult civil Protection Act (EADACPA) has been enacted to enable the interested persons to engage attorneys in the cases of the abused elders and the dependent adults. This Acts provides civil remedy for neglect, fiduciary and physical abuse and it authorizes for the payment of attorney’s fees, punitive damages depending the circumstances and allowing the cases and cause of action to take place even if the victim dies. (Sanchez, 1996).