In a recent issue of Investment News, a study of financial advisors looked at this question. 591 advisors were asked about their experiences with elder financial abuse. One of the surprising findings focused on those advisors who knew or suspected abuse but did not report it.
A significant percentage of those who did not report abuse gave as a reason that they did not know who to contact. What is most troubling about this finding is that not knowing who to contact is such a simple problem to solve. Historically your regulators have never required that you have the name of a trusted contact for your client in order to open a file for that person. Here at AgingInvestor.com and AgingParents.com, where elder financial abuse comes up often, we think it is extremely short-sighted to be without a trusted contact or two in every client’s file. Isn’t it obvious that you need someone to call if a client gets into danger, whether it’s elder abuse or not? No one gets out of here alive and a client can live for quite a long time, developing cognitive impairment along the way. That puts a person at much higher risk for financial abuse.
New FINRA rules will require that you make “reasonable efforts” to get a trusted contact from your clients. We assure you, reasonable efforts are a lot easier to make when your client is signing up than they are when your client is 92 and forgetful or suspicious of everyone’s motives.
From us, two professionals who have worked with countless elders and their families over the last 10 years, we have three tips for every financial professional handling a client’s finances:
- You can’t ensure that your client will be competent for financial decisions forever. Be realistic! People are living longer and they may develop dementia or other cognitive impairment. Get at least two trusted contacts in every file for every client age 65 or older. Why two or more? One trusted contact might end up being the very person who is abusing your client–a family member.
- Get smart about the basics of recognizing red flags of diminished capacity. We offer a simple free checklist to help you. Click on the green button here to get yours now. These signs are warnings that your client is more vulnerable to manipulation by others.
- Know how to report financial elder abuse. You don’t have to be certain that abuse has occurred. You do need to know who may be doing it, when and how, in general (e.g., pushing your client into large, unexplained withdrawals). A reasonable suspicion is enough. It’s ok if you’re wrong. And you can do it anonymously. Call Adult Protective Services in the county where your client lives if you think someone is ripping off your vulnerable client.
Some advisors are worried that they’ll get sued for reporting suspected financial abuse. This is incorrect. Your regulators want you to report it. If you do what is reasonable, you are not a target. However, if you know that your impaired client is being financially abused and you do absolutely nothing, liability for failure to act is certainly possible.
by Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney, & Dr. Mikol Davis, Gerontologist, co-founders of AgingInvestor.com
Dr. Mikol Davis and Carolyn Rosenblatt, co-founders of AgingInvestor.comCarolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney offers a wealth of experience with aging to help you create tools so you can skillfully manage your aging clients. You will understand your rights and theirs so you can stay safe and keep them safe too. Dr. Mikol Davis, Psychologist, Gerontologist offers in depth of knowledge about diminished financial capacity in older adults to help you strategize best practices so you can protect your vulnerable aging clients. They are the authors of "Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisors Guide To Best Practice," and "Hidden Truths About Retirement And Long Term Care," available at AgingInvestor.com offers accredited cutting edge on-line continuing education courses for financial professionals wanting to expand their expertise in best practices for their aging clients. To learn more about our courses click HERE