New Florida Rules: Protecting The Elderly from Fraud
Discovering that an elderly loved one may be a victim of inheritance fraud can be heartbreaking and confusing. It’s natural to want to protect your loved ones and their estate both for their own good and for those who will benefit from the estate in the future. If you believe that a loved one is or is about to be a victim, please contact a Fort Myers inheritance fraud lawyer at Freidin & Inglis, P.A., immediately.
When Do You Have a Case?
Florida has several rules to protect its large elderly population from inheritance and other kinds of fraud. The issue at stake is sometimes one of ripeness (or when a case is ready for litigation) or other actions.
Inheritance fraud is clearly defined in two ways in Florida. In one type of fraud, a beneficiary must have made a specific false statement to a testator — your loved one who is making a will — and then the testator changes his or her will based on the false statement.
The other type of fraud involves a beneficiary getting your loved one to execute a will that says something different than what your loved one intended or by having him or her sign something they don’t understand.
The problem for many families is that, while Florida absolutely protects against this kind of abhorrent behavior (and you are encouraged to contact one of our attorneys if this happened), the case is not ripe until your loved one has passed and the will takes effect.
Often, this means fraud requires some work to prove, because the main potential witness has passed and the burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim — the personal representative of the estate or another beneficiary, such as children, siblings, nieces or nephews.
Fortunately, Florida has rules that protect the elderly if victimization is suspected before death. Florida statute provides that a civil action is allowed against a caregiver who stands in a position of trust and abuses that trust through neglect, deception or intimidation in order to defraud victims of money or other assets or property.
A caregiver can be anyone who has been entrusted with responsibility of a vulnerable person and has an agreement of that responsibility with the person or the person’s guardian. This could be a relative, friend, neighbor or employee or volunteer at a care facility.
This law offers both broad and specific protection to your loved one while he or she is alive, so that suspicions of inheritance fraud can be efficiently resolved as favorably as possible.
In July 2015, Florida tightened its licensing requirements for certain caregivers in assisted living facilities with HB 1001. While this does not take away from the protections afforded to the elderly in definitions of who is a caregiver, it does help to ensure that in certain facilities that are already licensed, the standard of care is heightened in tandem with requirements for stricter education and licensure.
Now, anyone who may deal with your elder loved one in a position of trust, including administration of medications or other healthcare, is bound to a higher standard of care and scrutiny than before.
While it can be unsettling to think of your loved one being a fraud victim, Florida has the infrastructure to protect the elderly. Please contact us today if you require assistance.