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Trust Betrayed

Jiab Wasserman, 1:52 am ET

BEFORE I RETIRED, I was a credit risk manager. I had to take compliance courses annually. One course focused on financial abuse, especially of the elderly. I learned that the most common perpetrators are not strangers, but family members, friends and caregivers who take advantage of too-trusting seniors.

But it’s one thing to know this theoretically—and quite another to find out it’s happening in your own family.

I previously wrote about now both my late father and his close friend were victims of financial abuse. After we discovered what was happening, I thought my three siblings and I had straightened out the family finances.

My youngest brother and I live in the U.S., while my parents were in Thailand. We all agreed that my two middle brothers, who live in Bangkok, should be co-guardians of my parents and their finances. My father was dying of Parkinson’s and my mother was deteriorating mentally and physically, so it made sense to let my brothers have complete control.

We split my parents’ money, enough to last the rest of their lives, between my two brothers in 2019. We had regular Zoom calls to discuss my parents’ physical condition and financial situation. One of my brothers sent us an accounting every quarter, while the other didn’t. When, in early 2020, we finally confronted the brother who hadn’t provided any sort of accounting, he admitted that the money he oversaw was gone.

We consulted an attorney and were advised that we could go to the police to have him arrested. In the end, we decided against it for my mom’s sake. It would have devastated her. My other brother still has the other half of my parents’ money in his care, which should be enough for my mom, now that my father has passed.

Losing my father was hard. I still miss him every day. But we knew it was coming and mentally we could prepare. Losing trust in my brother was in some ways harder. While we can’t recover the money, we have the comfort of knowing that Mom is still okay financially. Many seniors aren’t so fortunate.

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An
An
20 days ago

I agree with you and the commenters. If a family member, friend or caregiver has not previously dealt with your finances, then no trust with your finances has been earned just because you have known them a long time and help with other aspects of your life.

evan rayers
evan rayers
20 days ago

As you mentioned Jiab, & I too have learned that the most common perpetrators as you say are not strangers, but family members, friends and caregivers who take advantage of too-trusting seniors. Thats what data suggests also Jiab. I’ve disowned family because of it. Actions have consequences.
Good luck & Best wishes…

lisavfr
lisavfr
21 days ago

I took an annual trip with mom to visit her hometown. In hindsight I now realize dementia was taking over. Despite no shortage of funds she insisted on paying the hotel bill with cash. I was horrified when shortly after arriving in her home town she pulled out a few thousand dollars in cash and wanted to keep it in the hotel room.
I drove to the local bank where she had an account. My next concern was that at the end our trip she would need to pull the cash out to pay the hotel bill. As I was her driver that week I had to be with her at the bank for both the deposit and the withdrawal at the end of our stay. I was terrified at the thought of being accused of elder abuse or swindling my mother out of money when she needed to withdrawal a few thousand dollars, all with me standing nearby.

When we went to deposit the money I made a point of waving at every, single security camera and chatting with the teller when mom deposited the money. Fortunately for me, we had the same teller when mom withdrew the money later that week and she recognized us and knew we had simply put the cash in the bank for a week-long duration.

Mom has since passed but, I did have a nice chat with the bank folks telling them the story. They agreed that elder financial abuse is a real problem and I was smart to handle the situation the way that I did.

parkslope
parkslope
21 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

My younger sister day-traded away most of our mother’s savings before Mom realized it and informed my other sister and me. I’ve managed what was left conservatively for the past 6 years and there is enough left to last another year when Mom will turn 100. Fortunately, she is in a life-care facility that picks up expenses for residents who run out of money (the cost to fund this was included in her initial admission fee).

My sister honestly believes that she did nothing wrong and that she would have been able to turn things around if given time. We’ve patched things up and never discuss this matter but it has been very traumatic for all of us.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
21 days ago

Jiab – thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure it was, and is still is, painful. It happens far too often.

Newsboy
Newsboy
21 days ago

Jiab – thank you for putting this out for the group. There is a reason that this particular topic is covered multiple times annually in both CE and mandatory compliance courses for financial professionals. It is insidious (and sadly all too common) as wealth transfer between generations accelerates due to advanced age. You put a human and personal face on this for all of us.

Last edited 21 days ago by Newsboy

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