Assembly Bill 381 (AB 381) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on August 14, and was written by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park). According to a news release from Assemblymember Chau, the law allows the court to award attorney’s costs and fees to seniors who are financially abused by people who use their power of attorney in bad faith.
Prior to AB 381, California law allowed double damages to senior victims of misappropriation of their funds, theft or bad faith on the part of someone with power of attorney. The problem with that was in many cases the cost of the lawsuit itself was even more than double the amount taken from the senior, meaning the senior would actually lose money by filing a lawsuit against someone who had stolen from him or her. The senior was left with the choice of either letting the perpetrator get away with the crime or incurring even more expenses by filing a lawsuit.
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“Each year in California, elder and dependent adults are devastated by the loss of property taken from them through financial scams,” said Assemblymember Chau in his news release. “This bill makes certain that seniors who are victims of financial elder abuse will no longer have to worry about the cost of seeking justice.”
According to the news release, California has the largest population of elderly citizens in the US, with an expected increase in the population from 3.7 million to 6.4 million in the next 20 years. Although AB 381 will not stop elder financial abuse, it will at least make it easier for seniors to go after those who victimize them, so they can recover their money.