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the Looters and the Poachers Stalk Prey
Lou Ann Anderson
‘Greatest Generation’ is the greatest generation to exploit.”
This quote by Chayo Reyes, a retired LAPD Specialist in Elder Fraud,
from a new DVD entitled Saving Our Parents appropriately depicts increasing
yet often unreported activities targeting today’s elderly and
their families. The assets of older Americans are being looted via
actions in which probate instruments such as powers of attorney, wills,
trusts or guardianships are used to gain control of property. These
actions evolve into an Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA)
as ultimate financial resource distribution becomes contrary to the
asset owner’s intentions.
members are sometimes IRA perpetrators, but non-family individuals
can come into an older person’s life with equally damaging results.
It can be a pre-meditated effort or an “opportunity knocks”
act. And don’t ever think the elderly don’t exploit each
other! A senior woman with no money, an inflated sense of entitlement
and a life expectancy of another 10+ years can easily become a financial
predator. The exploited elderly person may not understand (or live
to see) the actual IRA action instead leaving honest, responsible
people in the target’s life to deal with the aftermath and even
become secondary targets – especially if they are heirs/beneficiaries
for whom assets are rightfully designated and/or are obstacles to
an IRA practitioner’s ultimate success. Expensive, prolonged
legal entanglements as well as intimidation and harassment are common
tools used to pressure heirs/beneficiaries to cede rights of inheritance
if outright looting is not easily accomplishable.
the pool of those willing to exploit the elderly is endless, it is
important to be aware of places and venues where today’s predators
search for potential victims. The list might be surprising, but remember:
the guise of community respectability, professional credibility, even
enhanced morality or religiosity can be important entry points into
the life of a predator’s next mark. With that, here is our list
of where the looters and the poachers stalk prey:
lectures (especially through departments/agencies specializing in
groups (Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.)
communities, homeowners’ associations
groups (church-sponsored and otherwise)
facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities
planning seminars, sales presentations (beware “free food”
with “professionals” (lawyers, caregivers, accountants,
social workers, etc.)
places that cater to an older clientele (gyms, dance clubs, libraries,
evidence tells of probate judges attending meetings at senior centers
and other community venues ostensibly providing seniors with “prepare
now for future needs” information. A forum apparently frequented
by individuals with Connecticut probate experience depicts a system
in which public officials troll for prospective cases to meet the
challenge of operating in a state with numerous probate courts constantly
vying for justification of their court’s existence. And though
Connecticut residents may experience more visible aggression in these
pursuits, similar reports are heard across the country.
sponsored by anyone - government agencies, churches, civic groups,
support groups, whoever – can be beneficial for those looking
to poach property of the unsuspecting. An IRA practitioner might be
the featured speaker or he/she might be in the audience looking to
“befriend” unsuspecting marks. Gatherings put on by seemingly
respectable organizations can be viewed as safe havens fostering greater
trust and openness to those with whom personal contact is made –
a point well known to poachers-on-the-prowl. Support groups can be
especially rich in potential targets as the group’s commonality
(grief, caregivers, divorce, etc.) may increase their emotionalism
and vulnerability – another point not lost on IRA stalkers.
2005 Los Angeles Times series entitled Guardians for Profit said “Conservators
find clients by sponsoring breakfasts at senior centers and networking
at legal luncheons. Nursing homes call when residents become too addled
to pay the rent, wanting a conservator to write checks for them. Hospitals
call when patients have outlasted their insurance, hoping that a conservator
will move them somewhere else.” Conservators, also known as
guardians, use probate procedures to gain control over an individual’s
personal liberty and property. Though the Times articles focus on
California, these cases are not uncommon elsewhere.
regarding Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA) cases within
Florida’s probate system were detailed by the St. Petersburg
Times in a 1994 Pulitzer prize-winning series called Final Indignities.
And though published nearly 15 years ago, the same stories are heard
today – from Florida and most every other state.
predators are a fact of today’s life. Due to the wealth transfer
getting ready to occur in the next 20 or so years, Involuntary Redistribution
of Assets actions will likely skyrocket. People think proper estate
planning will protect them – wrong! People think they don’t
have enough assets to be a target – wrong!! There is no inoculation
from the threat of IRA. There is no avoidance of being a potential
target. This information is not offered as a broad-based indictment
of all organizations and entities, but awareness should exist on the
part of those hosting and attending community events. Knowledge of
today’s predatory landscape and recognition of the places haunted
by asset looters and property poachers will provide an upper hand.
And as forewarned is forearmed - stay alert!
Ann Anderson is producer of The Lynn Woolley Show, a Texas-based talk
radio program. She also is an advocate working to create awareness
regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture.
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