The abuse of vulnerable adults

It seems that all too often we hear about a family member who has physically or financially abused an elderly parent or relative. It may start out innocent enough, with the family member taking on the task of caring for the aging person with declining health. Dealing with an aging adult in failing health can be difficult, time consuming and expensive. The task takes patience, compassion and fortitude.

Some people take charge of their finances as well. Whether innocent or not at first, a few caretakers end up taking money from the elderly person for their personal use. While abusing a vulnerable adult is a crime, many times the event goes unreported. Typically because the victim is unable to do so or has too may health problems to stay on top of their finances. As the baby boomer generation ages there will probably be more and more instances of physical and financial abuse of vulnerable adults. The criminal justice system sometimes catches up with the perpetrators. Fines and jail time can be imposed. Reporting the crime should be encouraged. However, all too often some feel it is a family matter that should be handled in the family. Civil suits against the perpetrator are rare. Meaning the money defrauded from the vulnerable adult is seldom recovered. What makes the crime all the more outrageous is the ability of the perpetrator to still inherit from the elderly parent they’ve financially or physically abused. That may change soon, thanks to a proposed bill in the Washington legislature sponsored by Representative Jim Moeller (D) and championed by Vancouver attorney Jessica Dimitrov. The new law would prevent the perpetrator from inheriting from the person they victimized. It’s unknown if the bill will have any preventative effect on future perpetrators, but at least it would stop the ultimate injustice of someone profiting from their criminal acts.

Don Jacobs
Don Jacobs
Don is licensed to practice law in all Washington and Oregon state and federal courts. He is an active member of the Washington, Oregon and American Trial Lawyers Associations and a frequent lecturer on legal issues for both the Oregon and Washington associations.
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