According to Fox 5 San Diego (9/30/13), California Governor Jerry Brown has until October 12 to either sign or veto the proposed bills, which are designed to hold people more accountable for elder financial fraud. Among them are Assembly Bill 477, which would require notaries to notify authorities if they suspect elderly financial abuse is occurring, and Assembly Bill 140, which updates the definition of undue influence related to financial abuse.
In August 2013, Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 381, which allows the courts to award attorney’s costs and fees in situations where seniors are financially abused by people who have power of attorney.
The bills are likely welcome news for people concerned about how California’s seniors are treated, but it may come too late for some. In fact, regulators in California are accused of ignoring complaints of elder abuse. According to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting (9/9/13; found online at cironline.org) in 2009, the California Department of Public Health told investigators to dismiss approximately 1,000 complaints of elder abuse and theft. This means almost 1,000 cases of elderly financial, physical and sexual abuse have been closed without a proper investigation, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Much financial elder abuse is committed by trusted family members and associates, who are given power of attorney and have control of the senior’s money. Because financial elder abuse is often perpetrated by a family member, many seniors do not report it. Even if they do, because of their age, there is a chance they will have passed away before ever being compensated for their losses.
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The recent and proposed changes to California laws concerning elderly financial abuse may have an effect on some seniors’ ability to recover their losses, and may make it more worthwhile to attempt to do so.