It is an unfortunate reality that there are many out there ready to profit from and prey on vulnerable people. Seniors have always been a prime target for those looking to exploit others for financial gain, and the numbers are on the rise.
The key to protecting yourself or your loved one is determining who is truly qualified and providing the service with honesty and integrity. Choosing an unqualified person or someone with illicit motives creates the risk of financial loss or other disastrous outcome for the elderly person involved.
The Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA) has proposed several rules to address the financial exploitation of seniors, such as requiring investment firms to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name and contact information for a trusted contact person, and a rule that would explicitly permit firms to place a hold on funds or securities where there is reasonable belief of financial exploitation. Here are some other important considerations to put your advisors to the test:
References. Can the professional service provider give you names and phone numbers of satisfied clients who will provide a reference? For attorneys, you can also check with the State Bar of Texas to ensure that the attorney is licensed and in good standing with the Bar.
Personal Attention. Investments, insurance, and legal documents all require a qualified professional to prepare and review with you, to ensure your unique circumstances are considered and the documents are properly executed. Never give your information to someone you have not personally consulted, preferably at their office.
Criminal conduct. Be careful of people who claim to offer assistance, but are committing criminal violations in the process. For example, anyone other than an elder law attorney who offers assistance in obtaining Medicaid eligibility is committing an offense which is considered a Class A misdemeanor under Section 12.001 of the Texas Human Resources Code.
Compensation. Make sure you know the full range of compensation to be received by the service provider. Rarely does anyone provide professional advice or assistance for free. In particular, if the transaction involves the purchase of annuities, find out who is receiving a commission and the amount they are receiving.
Complexity. Financial and legal matters are complex and require specific detail. Anyone who offers you a “quick fix” or “one size fits all” solution is probably not meeting your needs. Be wary of anything that seems too simple or too good to be true – it probably is.
Lori Leu, Erin Peirce, Lauren Olson, and Laura Chavero are Elder Law attorneys with Leu & Peirce, located in Plano, Texas. They can be reached at 972-996-2540.