An interesting article came out today by the Associated Press about how professionals who combat financial abuse against seniors can hold up the Brooke Astor verdict to raise awareness of the growing epidemic. You can read the article here.
Jennifer Peltz, who wrote the article, discusses how advocates against financial exploitation of the elderly hailed the verdict and how it is far from alone. She points that there have been many other famous cases involving the rich, such as J. Steward Johnson (heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune) and Anna Nicole Smith versus the son of her late 90-year-old billionaire husband.
The really sad part is that this problem affects many more than the wealthy in America. Indeed, with our country's troubled economic times, the problem of people stealing from and coercing seniors out of their money is getting worse and worse. And the best prevention is for families to be proactive and protect their aging loved ones, especially once there is a diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
But many people still refuse to think it can happen to their families. It does! Trust me, as a probate litigation attorney who sees this happen to real people on a regular basis (and I'm talking about average, middle class families, not just the upper class), I can assure you that every baby boomer with an aging loved one needs to be aware of this problem.
Sometimes the crime involves theft or fraud. Other times it comes in the form of coercing a change to a will or trust. Often it involves convincing someone to add a new name to a bank account or deed.
But, these acts rarely result in criminal prosecutions. The Brooke Astor case is very unusual from that standpoint. It's up to people, and experienced attorneys, to combat these acts in civil and probate courts because police and prosecutors simply don't have the resources to take on most of these cases.
Of course, with better prevention, cases like these don't have to happen at all. That's part of the reason I, and my co-author Danielle Mayoras, wrote Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!
Our book helps bring awareness to the issue and educates people about the importance of proper estate planning and avoiding family fighting over money. We discuss the Brooke Astor, Johnson & Johnson, and Anna Nicole Smith cases (along with dozens more) to help teach families how to protect against having to end up in court after a loved one dies, fighting over money.
In fact, the Associated Press article quotes me and mentions Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! Education and raising awareness is the first step towards prevention. That's why celebrity cases like the ones discussed in Trial & Heirs are so important. They help get people talking.
So if you have an elderly loved one, learn about these celebrity court cases, so you can talk to and help educate your family, before it is too late.
Posted by: Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. You can email him at awmayoras @ brmmlaw.com.Follow us on Google+