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Astor case draws attention to elder financial abuse

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NEW YORK (3/1/10)--The trial of deceased philanthropist Brooke Astor’s son continues to raise public awareness about elder financial abuse, as the defendants’ lawyers make a motion to throw out the earlier conviction. Attorneys for Astor’s son, Anthony D. Marshall, and her estate planner, Francis X. Morrissey Jr., believe their clients’ rights were violated when Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr. did not interview jurors after he received a note, while the jury deliberated, that a juror felt threatened ( Feb. 22). Marshall and Morrissey were convicted in October 2009 of charges that involved larceny and conspiracy to defraud Astor, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease during her final years ( Feb. 22). The motion draws new attention to the trial and returns the issue of elder financial abuse to the public eye. The number of financial elder abuse victims each year is unknown: Victims are too embarrassed to disclose the crimes or are simply unaware of them, according to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse website. It defines financial elder abuse as “the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or resources.” What can you do to be proactive against financial abuse of the elderly? Here are a few tips:
* Check in. Maintain positive relationships with elderly friends or relatives by contacting them regularly. This makes it easier to detect when something is out of the ordinary. * Pay attention. The mental state of elderly friends or relatives may make them vulnerable to fraud; signs of neglect often accompany financial abuse. So pay attention to details like their living situation, mental clarity and how well they understand conversation. * Gain insight. A visit to the doctor will give you insight as to whether financial abuse is occurring or whether there are medical reasons for an elder’s behavior. This can also help you determine how susceptible your elderly friend or relative may be to financial abuse.
For more information, read “Senior abuse part of financial reform package” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.