preventing elder abuse elder care attorney

Preventing Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is often in the news but refers primarily to the physical neglect or abuse of the elderly who are unable to defend or fend for themselves. What these news stories fail to report is the high level of financial elder abuse that takes place on a much larger scale than physical abuse.  Regardless of intention, when these conflicts occur, they can be detrimental to a senior’s life.  Preventing elder abuse is a big concern and it is continuing to grow as our population ages.

*This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The use of the Paths Law Firm website does not constitute a client-lawyer relationship.

What Is Financial Elder Abuse?

In response to this growing problem, Missouri legislature enacted a specific criminal statute entitled “Financial exploitation of the elderly person or person with a disability.”  This is when an offender knowingly obtains control over the property of the elderly person or person with a disability with the intent to permanently deprive the person of the use, benefit or possession of his or her property thereby benefiting the offender or detrimentally affecting the elderly person or person with a disability. 

Basically, financial abuse of the elderly can be the misappropriation of funds or financial resources or the misuse/abuse of financial control over a person. Legally, this abuse must cause harm to the elderly person. The harm can either result in financial losses or physical deprivation.  Even though there is a criminal statute, financial abuse goes mainly unreported as often it occurs by a family member.  Also, it is often known to be occurring, but proof is difficult. 

preventing elder abuse

 

Elderly individuals are considered easy targets by scam and con artists. In fact, these criminals often go out of their way to single out an elderly person of whom to take advantage.  This type of abuse can result in the draining financial resources, savings, or funds set aside for retirement on a small to large scale. It is important to note that these tactics are not necessarily aimed at the wealthy but any elderly person who has any funds available. Personal friends and family members are often guilty of fraudulent misappropriation and abuse of financial control.  

Financial Abuse Signs to Look Out For

If you suspect someone you know to be a victim of financial abuse, you may want to watch for the following signs:Financial Abuse Signs to Look Out For 

  • Unusual or high ATM activity
  • Large withdraws from banking accounts or checking accounts
  • Signatures on checks that do not match the elder’s signature
  • Credit card use that is unusual
  • Unpaid bills or collection letters
  • Lack of food in the house
  • Missing possessions
  • Abrupt changes in mood or demeanor
elder abuse prevention

 

Likely the best way in preventing elder abuse is to stay connected to both the senior and those that are part of the family or support network.  Be sure to follow up on any of the signs that you note that could indicate possible financial problems.

What Measures Can Be Taken to Prevent Financial Abuse of the Elderly?

If you think that an older person may be a victim of elder abuse, you need to act.  Here are some ways that you can help in the prevention of elder abuse:

  • Be Vigilant – Communication is a great way to hep in preventing elder abuse. Be sure to ask questions.  Check-in daily and ask about phone calls received or interactions that may have taken place regarding sales calls over the phone or in person.  Get the contact details for the company or person that they dealt with and do some research to determine if the contact was legitimate and follow up with the salesperson if you feel that your parent or elderly friend has been taken advantage of.    
  • Check financial accounts – If you have access to checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit cards, be sure to monitor transactions for anything that seems suspicious.  Also, make sure that bills are being paid regularly and on time. If there is a suspicion of attempted elder abuse or if elder abuse has already taken place, contact an attorney as soon as possible. 
  • Get to know Friends and Neighbors – Knowing the individuals that your parents or older relatives and friends are associated with can provide valuable information.  It allows you to first have additional people watching out for abuse.  Secondly, it lets those individuals that are possible abusers know that you are watching what is going on.
watching for elder abuse

Reporting Suspected Elder Abuse

The Senior Safe Act of 2018 requires any financial institution to report the suspicion of elder abuse to the relevant authorities. This includes brokers and financial advisers. These laws act as a deterrent to those who plan to take advantage of the elderly on a financial level. However, the public can also report suspected financial elder abuse to their local APS (Adult Protective Services) office to investigate the matter. It is highly recommended to contact an attorney if there is a suspicion of elder abuse.

  • Protective Services – Contact your local protective services hotline for assistance.  They can coordinate the efforts of law enforcement, social services, and other agencies when allegations are made.  
  • Nursing Home Ombudsman – If the abuse is occurring in a nursing facility by staff or a resident, be sure to report your suspicions to the nursing home ombudsman.
  • FTC Identity Theft Reports – If there is suspicion of identity theft, create an identity theft report.  Take the report to your local police department to be filed.  Next, be sure to contact all credit card companies as well as credit bureaus.
  • Financial Institutions – Contact banking institutions to make them aware of your concerns.  Their fraud department will open a case to identify suspected abuse.
preventing elder abuse

Get Help From an Elder Law Attorney

An Elder Law Attorney will work with older adults and their families to help protect them and their future.  They will establish legal documents such as trusts, and powers of attorney to discourage scammers and assist in preventing elder abuse

1. Living Trust – A trust places assets such as property, financial resources, and other assets of value in the control of a third party such as an attorney or trusted family member. In essence, the original owner of the asset or financial resources placed in trust has use of the asset or resources while not actually retaining ownership. Ownership will pass to a stated beneficiary of the trust under the terms and conditions of the trust. The person in control of the trust will only release assets if the terms and conditions of the trust are met. 

This gives the trustee the power to first assess what assets (such as monetary funds) will be used for before the money is spent. However, it is important to note that this level of control can also open an elderly person to financial abuse. It is important to select the person who will be in control of the trust carefully. It is often recommended to have a reputable attorney or financial advisor make decisions regarding a Trust.

2. Power Of Attorney – A Power of attorney is another way to protect finances.  It designates how and when financial resources are spent. A Power of attorney can be granted to any person that the elderly person agrees to have in control of their finances and make financial decisions on their behalf. In the case where an elderly person no longer has the ability to make financial or other decisions on their own, the court can be approached to grant power of attorney to another person in order to protect the best interests of the elderly person. Once again, it is important to select who is granted the power of attorney carefully to prevent misuse of control. 

3. Guardianship (and/or Conservatorship) – This is typically a last resort, but when a loved on lacking capacity refuses to allow their power of attorney to do their job or they did not place a power of attorney before their incapacity, a court-appointed guardian (of their person) and/or conservator (of their income and assets) may be necessary.

legal protection preventing elder abuse

 

Staying proactive, addressing any suspected financial issues, and seeking assistance from an Elder Law Attorney are crucial steps in preventing elder abuse.  Your vigilance in helping to prevent this type of abuse can make a big difference in the life of others.  If you or your loved ones have been a victim of or suspect elder abuse, Paths Elder Law can help.  We focus entirely on helping with legal issues that impact seniors and their families.  Advanced planning can help protect you and your family from falling victim to abuse.  Contact Us Today to Schedule a Consultation.  

Educational Seminar at Paths Law Firm

Paths Law Firm provides a Free Educational Elder Law Seminar every month to help you plan for your future.

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan Foley at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan graduated from the UMKC School of Law in 2018 and passed the Missouri Bar that year. Prior to law school, Ryan attended the University of Missouri – Columbia where he attained a degree in Business. He is a Kansas City native, growing up in the Northland where he achieved his Eagle Scout rank by doing a project for his high school. During his time in law school, Ryan was introduced to the practice area of Elder Law by one of his professors and has been

Ryan enjoys working with and educating clients to provide advocacy and support during the unfamiliar and often overwhelming probate process. Ryan understands the challenges faced by individuals when faced by the uncertainty and complexity of government systems or even handling a Trust during a time of grief, and he strives to make the process as easy as possible.

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

administrative assistant at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

Makaylee is currently working on her bachelor’s in political science and hopes to soon start law school as an aspiring attorney. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her friends and family but most importantly her dogs Taffyta, Tallulah Belle, and Harry. Their favorite thing to do is go on coffee dates and get pup cups.

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton, attorney at Paths Law

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

After starting her career as a disability attorney, Kathleen transitioned into estate planning at a mid-sized regional law firm. Kathleen joined Paths Law Firm in 2021 when she decided to return to a boutique law firm that provides excellent service and quality to clients. Because of her background as a disability attorney, she brings a thorough understanding of public benefits to each client meeting. At Paths Law FIrm, Kathleen focuses on traditional estate planning and business entity formation, providing tailored advice unique to each client’s situation.

Public Benefits Assistant

Tena K. Dooley

Public Benefits Assistant

Amanda D. Martin

I have my Associates in Applied Science and have over 20 years of office management experience. I have two daughters and one grandson.

During my time away from the office I enjoy spending time with my family.  I enjoy almost everything outdoors and my hobbies include fishing and gardening.

PARALEGAL

Sydney R. Morris

Paths Law elder law in Kansas City

PARALEGAL

Sydney

Sydney is currently enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City pursuing an accounting degree and plans to later attend law school.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her nephews and volunteering at her local church.

 

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

client service manager at Paths Law

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

Phone: 816-640-8635
Email: [email protected]

Christy has 3 years of experience in Elder Law working for seniors and their families as a Benefits Coordinator processing Medicaid and VA applications. Prior to joining Paths Law Firm Christy worked in the finance industry for over 10 years.

 

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as Benefits Coordinator. There have been many influences that went into her decision to select the field of Elder Law. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to her relationship with her grandparents.

When asked why she loves what she does, Christy said that at Paths Elder law, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite part of her job is getting clients approved for Medicaid or VA benefits as it is a huge relief for them and their loved ones.

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah, and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has two children that keep her busy and fill her life with joy! Christy’s daughter cheers for Avila University, and her son plays competitive baseball for the Bucks and races BMX locally for the Motorcycle Closeout Team.

When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and making homemade gifts for her loved ones and raising her kids to be healthy, happy, and positive humans.

 

Practice Areas

  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits

 

Professionalc Memberships and Affiliations

  • Missouri Notary

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René A. Fracassa

Rene A. Fracassa, Paths Law

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René

René has worked along side Rusty for 35 years. Not only is she part of the Paths team, she is also his wife. René spends her time working with the accountant to keep all of the finances in order, as well as general office management.

In addition to helping run the office, she helps manage the family and grandkids, tries to keep everyone fed, and has a passion to teach Bible Studies. Her former career in Event Planning trained her to juggle all the activity. She understands Rusty’s passion to serve people from the first mention of law school. It is a great pleasure for her to be an important part of every area of his life.

 

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

Hillary at Paths Law

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary

Hilary plays a vital role in the daily operations of the office. In addition to her regular office duties, Hilary has a heart of gold.

For more than 5 years, Hilary has operated the front desk at Paths, running the office and catering to clients. Hilary recently moved into the role of Community Relations Coordinator. She has a passion for people and a focus to share our business practices with the community’s seniors, businesses, and clients. She especially has a heart for seniors, showing they are loved through her visits, treats, the “Pen to Pal” program, and volunteering services at various senior living communities. She is a wonderful wife and mother of two. Most activities with seniors involve her great talent for any type of craft.

 

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer A. Bronson

Jennifer, senior paralegal

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer

Jennifer has been in the legal field for over 25 years and considers Paths her second home.

When she’s not running the office or working for our clients, she’s spending time with her first passion – her children.

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

attorney at Paths Law elder law

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

Phone: 816-640-8635

When asked what he wants to do, his reply was “I just want to sit at the kitchen table and work directly with people.” Rusty enjoys working with clients providing experienced advocacy and supporting them through their unfamiliar and overwhelming situations. Due to all the challenges faced by seniors, it is essential to work with an experienced elder law attorney who has expertise in the law, issues, and concerns affecting seniors and their families.

Rusty brings nearly 30 years legal experience and expertise working for seniors and their families as an elder law attorney in Kansas City and surrounding. Prior to law school, Rusty was a practicing accountant. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty decided to put his focus on helping the elderly, vulnerable adults, and their families navigate challenging life, end of life, and death events.

Rusty understands the challenges faced by individuals whose capacity is declining and how upsetting the loss of a loved one can be. He understands he may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief from loss, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind. Rusty works directly with client’s long term care issues, including Medicaid, Veteran’s Benefits, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Special Needs Planning.

In 2010, Rusty’s faith and love led him and part of his family to China as Christian missionaries. He and his wife, went permanently, but ended up dedicating 3 years to that ministry. They returned to Missouri to help with grandchildren after a family tragedy and later began anew with Paths Elder Law. The goal is providing compassionate care through legal advocacy.

When Rusty is not practicing law, he enjoys spending time with his family, grandchildren, and excessive eating at local restaurants.

 

Practice Areas

 

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits
  • Probate
  • Guardianship and Conservatorships
  • Education

 

BSBA and Master’s in Accounting, Master’s in Inter-Cultural Studies, and Doctorate in Juris Prudence

  • Rockhurst University
  • Liberty University
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City


Admissions to Practice

  • Missouri


Professional Memberships and Affiliations

  • State Bar of Missouri
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (long-time Member)
  • Elder Counsel (Charter and Ongoing Member)
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (Past Member)
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Missouri State Bar Committees – Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate