The largest coordinated sweep of identity fraud involving US seniors has recently been conducted. The US Department of Justice has reported that more than one million elderly people have collectively lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of this targeted financial abuse. The Department has criminally charged 200 out of 250 defendants identified in the sweep. These third party scam artists account for 27% of seniors who are financially exploited.
Con artists and scammers employ many different schemes to defraud seniors of their identity information and money. A large number of them are conducted over the telephone, for instance posing as an Internal Revenue Service agent claiming back taxes are owed, or frightening a grandparent to think that their grandchild has been arrested and needs bail money wired to them. Other schemes include the promise of a prize or lottery cash if they just send a large fee in order to collect their “winnings.”. Seniors become easy victims when targeted by these social engineering schemes and it is likely to get worse because of the proliferation of smart phones and other devices that get seniors to explore the online world.
USA Today reports that while phone scams target one senior at a time the online environment is opening doors to thousands or even millions of seniors falling prey to a single scam. Email and other online channels can reach a vast number of potential victims and more elderly people have an online presence than ever before.
Romance scams that use to be conducted in person can now be achieved in the online dating environment and even in social media. The attacker can befriend multiple seniors online and then ask for money to cover “travel expenses” to visit them. This is particularly successful as many seniors are dealing with isolation and loneliness.
The online shopping world is another vehicle employed by scam artists to defraud seniors of money. All that is needed is a picture of an object that seems to be owned by the scammer and you have the potential to sell that item over and over again to thousands of seniors. All the scam artist has to do is set up a mirror website that appears to be a legitimate online auction house such as E-bay to drain seniors of their money as well as obtain credit card and other identity information. These mirror sites masquerading as official websites are often in the email accounts of seniors and a mere click on a link can download malicious software to their device that is designed to steal critical identity information.
Of the 27% of seniors who do become financially exploited by a third party, 67% do not exhibit symptoms of cognitive decline. That is a huge number of mentally fit seniors being financially exploited. This is a pervasive problem in the elderly community. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2017” identity fraud is second only to debt collection with regard to consumer complaints. Identity fraud accounted for 14% of all consumer complaints last year. The Commission also reported that seniors who are financially exploited suffer higher median losses than other age groups.
Many seniors who have been targeted are embarrassed, ashamed, or scared as a result. Many never saw themselves as being at risk, they fear retribution from the perpetrator, and they fear that government agencies or family members will label them unfit to care for themselves.
Systems can be put in place to monitor senior accounts and make their money less easy to access by scammers. In addition, there are legal documents that can protect the accounts of seniors during their lifetime, and eliminate the chance of fraud or abuse. Please contact us, your Marietta Elder Law Attorney, for more information on how we can help you or your loved ones reduce the chance of financial fraud or abuse.
Stephen M. Worrall, Marietta Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate Attorney at Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC, has been selected to the 2018 Georgia Super Lawyers list. He was named as a Top Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer, one of only 34 named in that practice area in Georgia this year. No more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers.
Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.
The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country.In Georgia, the results are posted in Atlanta Magazine. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in their practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, go to SuperLawyers.com. To see Mr. Worrall’s listing, go here.
‘It’s the time of year…time for all the snowbirds to take flight,’ says Marietta Wills Lawyer
By Steve Worrall, Marietta wills lawyer
Snowbirds are traditionally known as people who take flight every winter heading south to a warmer climate. However, in today’s mobile society, more and more retired people reside in more than one state during the year for reasons other than the weather. Who can resist those grandchildren?!
If you fall into the “snowbird” category, it is important for you to think about whether your estate plan is going to work for you as you planned. When it comes to planning for a dual residence client, it is important to address issues and develop a plan that will work effectively in both states.
Most people are aware of how critical it is to have up-to-date advance medical directives, durable power of attorney, designation of a health care advocate and a living will. However, what you may not know is that each state has its own set of laws and rules which may mean that your documents won’t work as you planned in another state. Even if the documents meet the technical requirements of the other state, a hospital or doctor may not choose to honor the documents which may mean your decisions regarding end-of-life or disability care may not be honored.
If you are a dual resident, it is important to talk with an experienced Marietta estate planning attorney so that they can provide specific direction regarding individual state requirements. So if your will or trust was created before you owned property in another state, be sure to call and make an appointment with your Marietta wills attorney to go over your will or trust to make sure that it will work just as you planned.
Of course it makes sense that a Marietta wills and estates lawyer would tell you to create a will, right? Our job is to help people plan for what will happen to their estates once they’re gone. But, having been involved in estate planning in Marietta for such a long time, it’s clear that message of proper planning is something more people still need to hear.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of four brief reasons that explain why you need a will…and why it must be created sooner, rather than later. There are certainly many other aspects to consider, but these can have a great impact on the future of your estate:
Reason You Need a Will #1: It Saves Money
There are so many financial issues that come into play once an individual has passed away, and it really does take a trained lawyer to understand them and come up with a solid game plan. An estate planning attorney is able to help you take advantage of tax benefits that you might not have otherwise known were available, as well as help you save an incredible amount of money that can be passed on to your heirs.
Reason You Need a Will #2: It Protects Your Family
Not all adults have minor children, but those who do should have a will in place that names who they want to be their child(ren)’s legal guardian in case of death or incapacitation. If you and your wills lawyer in Marietta have not formally and legally laid out this information, then it will be up to the courts to determine who will raise your children in your absence. Keeping your will updated also protects other family members, as you can determine what goes to whom, rather than having family members cause fights and drama over your estate.
Reason You Need a Will #3: It Keeps Real Estate Intact
Do you own a house or other property? If so, and you pass away without a will, the courts will likely pass co-ownership of that property to your heirs. What happens when some of your heirs want to keep the property and others want to sell it? What if you specifically want a certain heir to inherit your property? What if you don’t want your heirs inheriting the property and would rather leave it to someone outside the family instead? Without a will, the answers to all of these questions will be completely out of your control.
Reason You Need a Will #4: You Might Not Be Allowed to Do It Later
One of the requirements of a valid will is that the person creating it is of “sound body and mind.” If you become victim of an illness or injury that brings your ability to make sound judgments into question, you may be unable to put together a legally binding will later on. Anyone who does not agree with your decisions can simply contest the will, saying that you were not competent to make those choices; and the whole thing could end up in court.
Of course, there are many, many other reasons to meet with a Marietta lawyer and have an estate plan designed that addresses your unique legal and financial needs. We’re happy to help you get started with the process, so if you have further questions about wills here in Marietta or you’d like to move forward protecting the people and things you love, please give our office a call at 770.425.6060 and ask to schedule a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article ($600 value).
October is Special Needs Planning Month!
Many parents of special needs children do a great job attending to their children’s daily needs, but haven’t given any thought to planning for the day when they will no longer be around or no longer able to care for their children. As a Marietta special needs attorney, I have noticed clients who take this approach and don’t adequately plan for their children with special needs.
A lot of parents of these children haven’t even bothered to write a will, let alone make any special provisions for the children to be cared for later on in life.
We found 5 tips that parents of special needs children can use as they consider planning strategies in a recent article that we thought were worth sharing.
- Write a letter of intent. This is not in place of a will, but lists everything that is needed for caring for the child. This includes names and contact information for all doctors, therapists, teachers or any other professionals they may see. This letter should also list the child’s likes, dislikes, allergies and so forth. This can be included in a will but can stand alone until a will is written.
- Set up a special needs trust. An attorney that specializes in special needs trusts should be contacted. The trust will serve to protect any assets that will pass on to the child.
- Consider buying life insurance. It should provide enough to provide for the child after the parents are gone.
- Take the child’s name off of any assets. This is so the child will not be disqualified for government benefits.
- Set up a guardianship for the adult child. Before the child is 18; the parents should file to be the adult child’s legal guardians.
These tips can help parents provide for their special child’s future while supporting their own peace of mind.
If you are the parent of a child with special needs, and you want to get started with putting in places plans for your child’s future, call us at 770-425-6060 and schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session ($600 value) at no charge. Or for more information on planning for your child, go to GeorgiaSpecialNeedsLawyer.com and download my FREE guide, “Legal Planning For Special Needs Children: Special Needs Planning Guide” Read it and learn How to Put a Fortress of Protection Around Your Child Through All of Life’s Transitions When Your Child is Disabled.
DID YOU KNOW…
That if you were to pass away or become incapacitated while your child is at school, the authorities may not release your kids to those you listed on the school emergency card?
Because by law, the authorities can only leave your kids with their “legal guardian” or surviving parent if something happens to you.
If the surviving parent is unavailable or something happens to you both during school hours, your child will may possibly be placed into the care of social services until a judge (who doesn’t know you or your wishes!) should decide where they should go.
That is NOT a position you want to put your kids in—especially during a time of grief!
Fortunately, putting a plan in place to make sure your kids are protected if something happens to you is EASY!
Here’s a brief checklist to help you “get your ducks in a row” before the school year starts:
- Have I legally documented short and long-term guardians to care for my kids if something happens to me and/or my spouse during school hours?
- Do the people I listed on my child’s school emergency card match those I’ve legally named as guardians? (If not, your emergency contacts will only have permission to pick your kids up if they are sick – not care for them if something happens to you).
- Have I provided my chosen guardians with the documentation they need and instructions on what to do if called upon in an emergency situation?
- Have I prepped the babysitter who watches my child either before school or after school on what to do if something happens to me so child services are not called in?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, now is the perfect time to get a plan in place before the hustle and bustle of school season starts!
Just call me, Cobb County family lawyer, Steve Worrall. As a dad and a lawyer I am passionate about ensuring young families protect their children. Call 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at no charge (up to $600 value) and get $100 off a Will based plan or $250 off your Trust based plan (see our 3 levels of planning packages here) with the mention of this “Back to School” Article.
Together we’ll legally document your choice of guardians and create a plan that ensures your kids are cared for by the people YOU want, in the way you want, if the unthinkable happens.