In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the South Carolina Office of the Attorney General reminds financial professionals and the public throughout South Carolina to be on the lookout for signs of elder financial abuse, including potential exploitation by guardians.
The principle behind guardianship is noble. The objective is to make sure that someone who cannot take care of himself or herself has another person or institution watching out for their interests. Guardians often are granted extensive access and control of a protected individual’s assets. A guardian, whether publicly funded or privately appointed, has a legal obligation to act in the best interest of a protected individual.
There are many pros and cons of guardianship, and the advantages, in many instances, outweigh the disadvantages. One of the main advantages of guardianship is that it can stop many financially disastrous situations from occurring. Contrastingly, financial abuse or exploitation by guardians could occur if the guardian improperly uses the protected individual’s funds, securities, property, or other assets.
“A trusted guardian can be a wonderful resource. But sometimes guardians may take advantage of the people or assets in their care,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “Taking the time to understand the warning signs of guardian financial abuse and the steps that can be taken to report such abuse are key to helping those who cannot help themselves.”
The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the South Carolina Office of the Attorney General is a member, has developed resources to help call attention to the red flags of fraud and suspected guardian financial abuse. The “Guarding the Guardians” publication provides examples of exploitation and information on how to report suspected elder financial abuse.
Examples of suspected guardian abuse include:
- The guardian takes money from the protected individual’s investment portfolio to buy a new car for personal use.
- The guardian overcharges for a caregiving service, such as billing the estate hourly for wait time to file paperwork in person when it could have been submitted online.
- The guardian does not take the protected individual to medical appointments or purchase their necessary medication.
The publication, as well as other resources to help seniors, is available on NASAA’s Serve Our Seniors website (serveourseniors.org) at the following link: http://serveourseniors.org/about/investors/. Attorney General Wilson asks anyone with suspicions of possible senior financial exploitation to contact the agency at 803-734-9916.