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San Luis Obispo, California

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Ray Mattison
Ray Mattison
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California Law Provides New Rights for Victims of Financial Elder Abuse

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     With an aging and affluent population of elders, California is a fertile ground for those committing financial elder abuse.  The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform have an excellent summary of the various forms of elder abuse and what to watch out for.
      A New Bill authored by Senator Steinberg allows victims to freeze the assets of the wrongdoers before trial, an unusual remedy in personal injury and other civil cases.  This is a constant problem we face when the abuse is by a family member or individual rather than an institution such as an insurance company: By the time we can obtain a judgment the money is long gone.
     On the reporting side, a recent law requires banks and credit unions to report suspected elder financial abuse to the authorities.  In one case we handled the abusive relative was holding her senile mother’s hand as she signed the loan papers at the finance company.  Yet, at that time the company had no responsibility to report the conduct.  We were able to establish the liability of the finance company in this case of elder abuse in San Luis Obispo County; but, this was made difficult as the law imposed no specific duty on the company to prevent or report such activity.
     We have represented thousands of seniors in class actions against annuity insurers, such as Allianz and National Western, and have yet to find a case where an annuity was a suitable investment for a senior. They have hidden charges and are never understood by the buyer.  Often these policies are sold by people posing as “financial advisers” at free-lunch seminars.  Another common scam is the “trust mill” where seniors are enticed to attend seminars and to buy inexpensive “living trusts” – when the real goal is to sell them an expensive annuity with huge commissions and even bigger early surrender charges and other penalties.