May was originally designated as Older Americans Month by then President John F. Kennedy. At the time, America was home to about 17 million people over the age of 65. As the American population ages that number continues to climb. Today, there are over 40 million older Americans living in the U.S. and experts tell us that by 2060 there will be over 90 million Americans over the age of 65.
If that comes to pass, there will be more older Americans living in the U.S. in 2060 than younger Americans (those under age 18), marking a historical first for the U.S. One consequence of the increase in older Americans is the corresponding increase in the instances of elder financial abuse.
Lottery and sweepstakes schemes, unscrupulous lending practices, e-mail and telemarketing schemes and identity theft are common forms of financial abuse of the elderly. Because older individuals are hesitant to report financial abuse for a variety of reasons, it is difficult to determine exactly how often it occurs in the U.S. Experts, however, estimate that as much as $3 billion is swindled from the elderly every year in the U.S. Worst of all, the perpetrators are not always strangers. In fact, family members and other caregivers are often responsible for swindling the elderly.
One way to decrease the chance of becoming the victim of elderly financial abuse is to create an estate plan that includes an incapacity plan. By doing this, you can decide now who will have access to your assets as you build in checks and balances to ensure that you are not an easy target.
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