Scoundrels and Schemers

Louise was a wealthy woman in her advanced stages of a terminal illness, was blind, completely deaf, and in her final stage of dementia.  She could no longer communicate and decisions were being made for her by an old friend she trusted.  Louise had never married and had no children, but did have four beneficiaries to her estate.  All four really loved her and provided the very best care for her in a beautiful health center for the remainder of her days.

One of Louise’s passions in life was purchasing fine diamonds; she had several pieces that were very large and easily worth in the six-figure range.  Everyday, she wore them because she loved them.  Louise bathed in them, napped in them, slept in them, and ate in them.

The beneficiaries started to grow concerned about these pieces of jewelry Louise wore on her person, for a number of reasons.

  • Most people don’t even have pieces as valuable as these, and if they did, the pieces would be kept in a safe, vault, or safe deposit box.
  • The beneficiaries did the right thing in requesting the rings be removed while Louise was napping, to have the genuine diamonds replaced with less expensive stones, in the event something should happen to the rings.
  • The genuine diamonds would then have been turned over to the trustee of the estate and secured.  Who could possibly blame them for wanting the diamonds protected?

Unfortunately, the decision-maker overseeing Louise’s assets insisted that Louise should continue to wear those massive stones against everyone’s advice.

One day, less than 2 weeks after this request to have each diamond removed and replaced with cubic zirconia, the massive diamond pieces Louise was wearing disappeared.  Not only did these pieces disappear, but a video camera, some CDs and a crock put vanished as well from Louise’s home.  This was a clear indication to the family that the caregiver, sitter, or someone else who had very close contact with her, had made off with the goods.  The beneficiaries were beside themselves.

Why didn’t anyone prevent this from happening?

Why didn’t anyone listen to their request?

With all the questions and accusations that flew, the damage was done.  The diamonds were gone, never to be found again, probably sold at a pawn shop for a few thousand dollars and currently sitting in someone’s safe as their own retirement investment.

It is simply up to us, the chosen decision-makers,

to make the correct decisions to care for and

protect our loved ones (and their assets)

who cannot make decisions for themselves.

This story clearly demonstrates that we must exercise extreme caution with valuables.  Remember to have them evaluated by a professional, have those values documented, and keep them in a safe place until they are either distributed to family or sold.  The faces of exploitation are often familiar faces and not necessarily a stranger.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

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The Expense of “Free”

Everyone is trying to pinch pennies.  But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t send up a warning to be extra careful if something is “free.”  A “free” something will almost always lead to strings attached or something expensive coming later, like a repair, further services of some sort, or worst … it could be a scam.  In the professional world, “free” is used to attract you and extract your personal information so they can use it to get money out of you for something else.  Here in the 21st century, your information can also be used against you in the cyber world.

A Positive Thumbs Up Sign

It is equally important to realize that paying for a valued service versus a free service does have its differences.  A free service (such as an estimate, consultation, product, etc.) will only provide you with a fraction of the information, leaving you hanging for more, but then you will have to pay for it, often in more ways than one.  A paid service will get the job done to completion the first time, if you choose the right professional.

Everyone is always attracted to “free” but should we be?

My late father had a saying, “If it’s free, take two.”  He was a Depression baby.  I am not.  This is the thought process of many people.  But no, I will not take “two” because I don’t want to clutter up my home with things my child won’t want one day, and I don’t want right now.  I won’t do that to my family.

What possible trouble could “free” cause?

Let’s take a closer look at the repercussions…

  • What if something goes wrong?
  • What if the service or information is inaccurate?  Where does the liability lie?
  • What if you get hurt, someone else gets hurt, or property (such as your home) gets damaged?
  • What if they don’t complete the job, or the job goes for months with no accountability?
  • What if you dislike the results or get really bad information?
  • What if you hired family, friends, or neighbors?  That relationship will never be the same.
  • And finally, what is your recourse if no money changed hands?

Many times, people have ulterior motives for offering something for free.  Not always, but a good bit of the time, it’s true, even in my own industry (as well as every other industry).

“Free” is never free.  It just sounds good.  Free can mean hasty mistakes, and free can mean costly mistakes.  Sometimes free can be very expensive.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

Senior Scams are in Full Swing

… And it’s going to get worse!

Boomer children, be warned.  While the poor economy is definitely a huge culprit when it comes to senior scams, we also need to face the fact that many people out there are indescribably unscrupulous, earning money to hurt the ones you love.  I’ve often wondered how these people sleep at night and live with themselves, but I have come to realize these scam artists don’t seem to have much of a conscience.

Since I have had several blog followers ask me to write about the scams that have robbed their loved ones in many different ways, I want to shed light on what our seniors are going through, that often as children we don’t see … or don’t want to see.  The phone rings and it’s a friendly voice the elderly person is attracted to.  Our elderly relative might be lonely or soft-hearted and give information they shouldn’t give to the stranger.  Sadly, they are of a generation that may not fully recognize the impact of the world wide web and its power.  The stroke of a finger on a keyboard could mean financial devastation to them, and their personal information is spread around the world in an instant, never to be retrieved.

The telemarketers prey on them, promising a lottery, other forms of a windfall, and free stuff.  There is no “free.”  It all comes at a price.  We must also take into consideration that many of our relatives suffer from dementia, and the effects it has on their logic and reasoning.  In some cases, they don’t know any better, or they are just sweet-natured and gullible.  Some even buy things from TV home shopping channels just to have social interaction with the customer service rep on the phone and the UPS man when he drops off their purchases.

These are some of the things I see, but the National Council on Aging has this to say about senior scams:

  • All seniors are targeted, both low income as well as high income, because it is perceived they have plenty of money saved.
  • Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. (Wow, this is really sad!)

Their top 10 list of senior scams:

For more details on each, go to: Top 10 Senior Scams

  1. Health Care / Medicare / Health Insurance Fraud
  2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
  3. Funeral & Cemetery scams
  4. Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products
  5. Telemarketing
  6. Internet Fraud
  7. Investment Schemes
  8. Homeowner / Reverse Mortgage scams
  9. Sweepstakes and Lottery scams
  10. The Grandparent scam

Also, consider contacting your local Better Business Bureau for senior scams  in your area, and how they can be avoided.  Make sure to place your elderly loved one’s phone number on the National “Do Not Call” Registry. Registry

While scammers still do call, it is done less frequently.  Remind them your number is on the “Do Not Call” list.

Please do your research, and do everything in your power to protect your loved one!

© 2012 Julie Hall

Protect Your Vulnerable Parents

Your parents, especially those who live alone, are vulnerable to scams and schemes for three reasons.  First, seniors tend to be trusting.  They also may be lonely and sometimes distant from those who can protect them.  Senior parents are also vulnerable because they worry about their financial security.  Finally, scammers know that many seniors have money and valuable possessions.

Even though approximately 50 percent of elderly Americans are victims of financial exploitation, only 10 to 15 percent of the abuses are reported.

The following may indicate that your parents are being victimized:

  * Sudden bank account changes, especially an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money
  * Unfamiliar long-distance telephone numbers, especially from overseas, on their monthly bill
  * Significantly lower standard of living (change in eating and shopping habits; unable to afford things they once afforded)
  * Selling higher-end items such as furniture, antiques, and so on
  * Sudden disappearance of valuable possessions
  * Increase in commercial or junk mail
  * Sudden change in behavior; symptoms of depression or anxiety
  * Increased worries over money

Your parents protected you when you were young with advice and example.  Look both ways before crossing the street, never speak to strangers, and a host of other suggestions were meant to protect you.  Sadly, our parents reach a point where they need us to protect them!

Here are six suggestions to protect your parents from scams and schemes:

1. Ask or discuss with your parents who has durable power of attorney.

2. Register your parents’ telephone numbers with the National Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov).

3. Discuss with them the list of common frauds listed above.  Ask them to contact you if they suspect anyone is trying to defraud them.

4. Ask your parents to contact you if anyone offers to buy any of their possessions.

5. Make sure a family member personally visits your parents on a weekly basis.  If this is a challenge and you have other siblings, take turns.

6. Reduce junk mail for a small fee by going to either of these web sites: www.stopthejunkmail.com and http://mailstopper.tonic.com.

The National Center for Elder Abuse is an excellent resource for information on financial and other forms of abuse against senior citizens.  It publishes reports and conducts research on this growing problem.  NCEA’s mission is to promote understanding, knowledge sharing, and action on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.  Its web site also offers links to other excellent resources and organizations also devoted to protecting senior citizens.  Their web site is www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Honor your parents by standing between them and anyone who sees them as an easy target.

© 2012 Julie Hall

Oh Brother, Sister! What Have You Done?

My experiences with client cases never cease to amaze me.  This one amazed even me!

An elderly client passes away with much of her  family estranged from her.  Interestingly enough, every time we went into the estate to conduct work, more and more was missing – mostly the “good stuff.”  (This is why you change the keys/locks after a loved one dies.)  So we reported it to the estate administrator and the keys were changed promptly.  That is fairly typical in most estates, and you might even have your own stories about family helping themselves.  What happened next is unthinkable!

As with all deaths, the executor or attorney needs to close all accounts, settle debt, etc.  Imagine the surprise when the credit card bills came rolling in AFTER the date the woman died!  Come to find out it was a family member who did it and is being (and should be) held financially responsible.

As we were cleaning out the estate, we discovered something that at first made no sense.  Where was her purse?  It was nowhere in sight.  Someone swiped her purse!  Probably the same one who took her credit card.

It’s hard to believe people like this exist out there.  How could someone stoop so low as to steal from a deceased sister?  This is another reason to plan your estate and distribute it prior to passing away, if you can.  No one should be taken advantage of, especially when someone is no longer here to protect themselves.

© 2011, The Estate Lady

She was Having a Bad Heir Day

Joann and her brother were co-executors of their mother’s estate.  One day, she decided she didn’t like how her brother was acting regarding the division of mom’s property.  So she did what many heirs have done … however unthinkable it was … she asserted control over the issue in a not-so-nice manner.

I think you will agree she went about it all wrong!  After I completed a consultation with her, she immediately called a locksmith and had all the locks changed so no one could get in the house but her.  “My brother is not going to get the things he wants.  He has ticked me off one time too many.  I’ll show him … I’m going to get them before he does,” were her exact words.  I hope my jaw didn’t drop too much.

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, she proceeds to move all the heirlooms out of mom’s house without notifying her brother of anything, and has them delivered to her storage unit.

This is the perfect example of how NOT to handle an estate unless you want to drain your finances for legal fees.  Despite my repeated attempts to talk with her and offer her some sound advice, it fell on deaf ears.  To me, it is complete disrespect for the loved one who has died, but this happens more frequently than even I care to admit.  Scary, but very true.

© 2011 Julie Hall

Your Parents Need Protection!

About a year ago, I gave my blog readers the following suggestions about protecting our parents and other elderly relatives.   Occasional news stories continue to sadden and disturb me, as another elderly, well-meaning person falls victim to a clever scam or scheme.  Please review these suggestions, and pass this information along to others, so together we can protect our elderly family and friends.

1. Ask or discuss with your parents who has durable power of attorney.

2. Register your parents’ telephone numbers with the National Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov).

3. Discuss with them the list of common frauds (see The Boomer Burden, chapter 7).  Ask them to contact you if they suspect anyone is trying to defraud them.

4. Ask your parents to contact you if anyone offers to buy any of their possessions.

5. Make sure a family member personally visits your parents on a weekly basis.  If this is a challenge and you have other siblings, take turns.

6. Reduce junk mail for a small fee by going to either of these web sites: www.stopthejunkmail.com and http://mailstopper.tonic.com.

The National Center for Elder Abuse is an excellent resource for information on financial and other forms of abuse against senior citizens.  It publishes reports and conducts research on this growing problem.  NCEA’s mission is to promote understanding, knowledge sharing, and action on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.  Its web site also offers links to other excellent resources and organizations also devoted to protecting senior citizens.  Their web site is www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Honor your parents by standing between them and anyone who sees them as an easy target.

© 2010 Julie Hall

Published in: on October 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Protect Your Parents from Fraud

Your parents protected you when you were young with advice and example.  Look both ways before crossing the street, never speak to strangers, and a host of other suggestions were meant to protect you.  Sadly, our parents reach a point where they need us to protect them!

Here are six suggestions to protect your parents from scams and schemes:

1. Ask or discuss with your parents who has durable power of attorney.

2. Register your parents’ telephone numbers with the National Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov).

3. Discuss with them the list of common frauds (see The Boomer Burden, chapter 7).  Ask them to contact you if they suspect anyone is trying to defraud them.

4. Ask your parents to contact you if anyone offers to buy any of their possessions.

5. Make sure a family member personally visits your parents on a weekly basis.  If this is a challenge and you have other siblings, take turns.

6. Reduce junk mail for a small fee by going to either of these web sites: www.stopthejunkmail.com and http://mailstopper.tonic.com.

The National Center for Elder Abuse is an excellent resource for information on financial and other forms of abuse against senior citizens.  It publishes reports and conducts research on this growing problem.  NCEA’s mission is to promote understanding, knowledge sharing, and action on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.  Its web site also offers links to other excellent resources and organizations also devoted to protecting senior citizens.  Their web site is www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Honor your parents by standing between them and anyone who sees them as an easy target.

© 2009 Julie Hall

Scams and Schemes

Your parents, especially those who live alone, are vulnerable to scams and schemes for three reasons.  First, seniors tend to be trusting.  They also may be lonely and sometimes distant from those who can protect them.  Senior parents are also vulnerable because they worry about their financial security.  Finally, scammers know that many seniors have money and valuable possessions.

Even though approximately 50 percent of elderly Americans are victims of financial exploitation, only 10 to 15 percent of the abuses are reported.

The following may indicate that your parents are being victimized:

  * Sudden bank account changes, especially an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money
  * Unfamiliar long-distance telephone numbers, expecially from overseas, on their monthly bill
  * Significantly lower standard of living (change in eating and shopping habits; unable to afford things they once afforded)
  * Selling higher-end items such as furniture, antiques, and so on
  * Sudden disappearance of valuable possessions
  * Increase in commercial or junk mail
  * Sudden change in behavior; symptoms of depression or anxiety
  * Increased worries over money

Next week, I’ll share six ways to protect your parents from fraud.  If you need the information sooner, and for much more practical advice on helping your parents now, and dealing with their stuff after they are gone, please order my book, “The Boomer Burden”, available from Amazon.  http://www.amazon.com/Boomer-Burden-Dealing-Lifetime-Accumulation/

© 2009 Julie Hall