Elder Financial Abuse – Stopping Real Property Thieves

Someone can’t pick up a house and steal it, obviously. But what does happen, with alarming frequency, is a bad son or daughter tricks and manipulates their parent into signing a deed that transfer title of the home. Most elder abuse rip-offs are committed by family members, but caregivers, landscapers, or alleged friends – anyone with close contact – can be the perpetrators.

Remedies are available to stop these thieves, but action must be taken quickly.

Here’s a typical scenario on how the rip-off occurs:

Mom is eighty years old, widowed, and lives alone in the house she owns, free and clear. She no longer drives and has begun to suffer memory loss over the past few years. Her only son has had drug and alcohol problems in the past, and has not seen or spoken to her in several years.

Son has no job, but now sees his mother a potential cash cow. Like the prodigal son, he visits with her, feigns his lost love to reunite, and slowly gains her trust and confidence. Her isolation makes her lonely and a perfect target for elder financial abuse.

Son now wrongly convinces her that she needs to transfer title of the home into son’s name, in order to avoid probate and tax problems in the future. Confused, but not wanting to upset her son and lose his companionship, she signs a deed that transfers title to her son.

The son immediately goes to a bank and takes out a $100,000 loan, using the house as collateral. If son fails to make the monthly mortgage payments, the house will be foreclosed upon and mom will be out in the street.

What can be done?

Action must be taken immediately. With the assistance of an elder law attorney, a civil action can be filed against son, and then a notice of pending real property claim (lis pendens) can be recorded in the local county Recorder’s Office. This recording places the world on notice that a dispute exists as to who the true owner of the real property is, and will prevent son from taking another loan out or selling the house.

In California, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) provides nearly every remedy that can assist mom and recover all property and monies wrongfully taken by son. Many states have enacted laws similar to EADACPA.

The key is for someone to identify the problem and then report it immediately so that quick action can be taken to prevent the furtherance of the theft, stop the financial bleeding and recover as much property and money as possible. Most bad guys are not taking money or property and establishing retirement accounts for themselves; rather, they are spending the ill-gotten gains as quickly as possible. Therefore, the quicker the action, the better the recovery results.

EADACPA, and those state with similar protections for the elderly, allows for additional damages to be recovered. These include special damages (out of pocket expenses), general damages (pain and suffering), attorney fees, and punitive damages.

The potential to receive a court judgment or jury verdict for large amounts of money puts real pressure on the bad guys to give up and return the title to an elder’s home that was wrongfully taken.

If you’ve been the victim of such senior abuse, or know of an elderly loved one who’s been victimized, then pick up the phone and give us a call.  We’re here to help.  The initial telephone consultation is always free.

Copyright.  2007 – 2012.  Law Office of George F. Dickerman.  All rights reserved.