October 15, 2018

Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation

Lori Stiegel

(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 39, Issue 2.)

The Commission continued its efforts to expand and strengthen the justice system’s role in preventing, detecting, and remedying the devastating and costly problem of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation (“elder abuse”). Staff are working on multiple projects addressing the intersection of elder abuse and guardianship; one of those projects is discussed in this article while the others are covered in Erica Wood’s article, Guardianship and Supportive Decision Making, on page 40 of this issue.

1. Strengthening Law, Policy, and Practice


Developing recommendations to improve victim  services and enhance public policies about financial exploitation by conservators is the objective of a proj ect funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime (DOJ/OVC), on which we are working with the National Center for State Courts, the Virginia Tech Center for Gerontology, and the Minnesota Judicial Branch.

To inform the recommendations, project staff explored the scope of the problem and its impact on victims, identified possible solutions, and convened a national consensus-building forum of stakeholders. A team of Commission staff led efforts to plan the forum, which focused on four critical areas:

•Detecting conservator exploitation through court monitoring;
•Detecting conservator exploitation through system approaches;
•Court actions to address conservator exploitation; and,
•Support for victims of conservator exploitation.

The forum participants included nearly 30 experts representing key national legal, judicial, guardianship, aging, disability and law enforcement entities; 15 Federal observers from DOJ and other agencies; and four laypersons who shared the egregious challenges they faced in protecting family members from exploitation by conservators. DOJ/OVC staff are currently reviewing the project’s draft report. Watch for more information about the project’s findings and recommendations next year!

To alleviate challenges faced by older victims of financial exploitation in pursuing civil legal remedies, the Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders,  a Donor-advised Fund of the New York Community Trust, funded the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) and the Commission to develop Model Civil Statutory Provisions for Elder Financial Exploitation. State enactment of the model provisions would expand civil remedies for victims of elder financial exploitation and make it easier for victims to obtain civil legal assistance to pursue those remedies. You can find the provisions at http://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/financial-crime-resource-center/advocacy/.

We continued supporting federal, state, and com- munity efforts to improve laws and practices related  to elder abuse, by providing technical assistance to Congressional committees, federal agencies, more than 25 state AARP offices as consultants to AARP’s State Advocacy and Strategy Integration Team, and to numerous state and local law and aging network providers under the auspices of the National Center on Law & Elder Rights. The ABA urged Congress to enact S. 178, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act; the new law (Public Law 115-70) authorized—but  did not appropriate funding for—an array of justice- related elder abuse activities (see www.congress.gov/ bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/178).

2. Educating Justice System and Allied Professionals and Laypersons

Efforts to educate lawyers and judges continued in various ways. We provided in-person presentations or webinars to nearly 2,000 lawyers, judges, and other professionals. We also made progress on the Elder In- vestment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program Legal (EIFFE Legal), a partnership between the Commission and the Investor Protection Trust and Investor Protection Institute. Through that partnership, we collaborate with state securities regulators and state or local bar associations in six states to develop and pilot-test a national model continuing legal education program to raise awareness about recognizing and preventing EIFFE. We conducted the fifth pilot for the Philadelphia Bar Association in April. Planning is underway for the final pilot program, which will be held next year in Missouri. We worked with students from Georgetown Law Center’s Iron Tech Lawyer Program to develop an app that will enhance access to the information contained in the Commission’s 2014 publication, Legal Issues  Related to Elder Abuse: A Pocket Guide for Law Enforcement. Funded by the U.S.  Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance to educate criminal justice professionals (law enforcement and community corrections officials, prosecutors, and judges), the Pocket Guide is also useful to and requested by adult protective services and victim services professionals, lawyers, financial services industry professionals, advocates, victims, and others. We hope the app will be available early in 2018. In the meanwhile, PDF versions of the Pocket Guide, as well as an expanded Desk Guide and a template for state adaptation of the Desk Guide are available online at www.ambar.org/ElderAbuseGuides. We also continued assisting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in its efforts to educate consumers about preventing financial exploitation by lay fiduciaries (agents under powers of attorney, guardians, representative payees and VA fiduciaries, and trustees of revocable living trusts). Several years ago, Commission staff produced a set of four national, plain English guides—collectively known as the Managing Someone Else’s Money guides—for CFPB.

We also wrote a set of guides for six states; this year the guides for Illinois and  Georgia joined the guides for Virginia, Florida, and Oregon. CFPB expects to publish the Arizona guides next year.


For more information about the national and stateguides, as well as replication tips and templates, visit www.consumerfinance.gov/managing-someone-elsesmoney.

3. Where to Get More Information

For the latest on the Commission’s elder abuse work, see our web page at: www.americanbar.org/groups/law_aging/resources/elder_abuse/.

Lori Stiegel