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How easily could you fall prey to financial abuse?

January 21, 2015

American actor Mickey Rooney recently won a $2.8 million settlement brought against his stepson in a much-publicized case of elder abuse in which the 93-year-old movie legend testified before U.S. Congress that he feared for his life.

But you don’t need Hollywood movie stars and huge bank accounts to suffer a similar fate. Have you ever felt taken advantage of by your children? Is your son consistently living well beyond his means? Does your daughter have trouble paying her bills on time? Do you think your kids have the resolve to rip you off?

Financial abuse is the most common type of abuse committed against Canadian seniors. Oftentimes, it begins after a health scare or after the death of a spouse or trusted companion. It stands to reason that those in poor health or those who are alone and lonesome are more likely to be the victims of financial mistreatment.

This type of abuse can be difficult to spot as it often occurs as a drawn out sequence of events rather than just a one-time occurrence. It can be difficult to fend off demands for money from your children especially when emotional and physical threats are added to the mix.

“I hate admitting this, but I hear about this more that I care to,” says Rob Golfi, a realtor with Remax Escarpment Realty. “Clients have told me they’ve been threatened by their grown children to either hand over money or co-sign a loan. I’ve heard about parents remortgaging their homes for the kids and then they’re stuck making payments in retirement.”

Financial abuse can take many forms. Have you been asked to give away money, property or possessions? Have you signed a legal document that you don’t understand? Were you talked into making a purchase you didn’t want? These are all samples of abuse.

Sometimes exploitation takes place much more subtly. Perhaps you’ve given in out of guilt or because of the constant pressure you get. You’ve co-signed for a loan or a mortgage even though you knew it didn’t feel right. Or perhaps you’ve dipped into your own savings to support your kids. We’ve all heard of families remortgaging their homes to help their grown children.

Golfi is an accredited specialist in selling real estate to seniors, having earned his SRES designation through the National Association of Realtors, which instructs on the unique characteristics of dealing with the 50-plus real estate market.

It’s important to remember that your money, possessions and property is yours and yours alone. You and your spouse worked a lifetime to accumulate your assets. Only you control how they’re used.
Here, thanks to the federal government, are tips for protecting yourself from fiscal abuse:

• Keep your financial and personal information in a safe place.

• Have a continuing power of attorney prepared appointing someone you can trust to look after you, so that even if you are ill and unable to look after yourself, your finances will be protected from others
who might try to take advantage of you.

• Ask for help if you think you are experiencing financial abuse.

• Keep a record of money you give away and note whether it is a loan or a gift.

• For major decisions involving your home or other property, get your own legal advice before signing documents.

• Ask someone you trust to look over contracts and other papers before you sign them.

• Be very cautious if you open a joint bank account – the other person can take away all the money without asking.

• Make an effort to keep in touch with a variety of friends and family so you don’t become isolated.

Rob Golfi of The Golfi Team is a Sales Representative with Remax Escarpment Realty Inc, your real estate expert servicing the Hamilton, Stoney Creek, Grimsby and surrounding areas. You can contact Rob at robgolfi@golfiteam.com

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