Once again, our blog draws us into another news story making headlines and reminding us no senior is safe from exploitation.

Forbes contributors Danielle and Andy Mayoras wrote a recent article on L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt being determined mentally unfit to manage her affairs by the French court. Before the ruling, Bettencourt had already been financially exploited, with more than one billion dollars being stolen from her estate by her photographer and close friend. She had also changed her will in the process leaving everything to this close friend and had not been paying taxes on her money. The court appointed Bettencourt’s children to control her estate.

According to the article, Bettencourt is number 15 on Forbe’s billionaires list. Yet, even with all the money in the world to hire attorneys and financial planners- she was taken advantage of. Therefore, lets take a look at some of the obstacles Bettencourt faced, that most seniors do, and how you can protect and prepare yourself.

The person exploiting Bettencourt was a “close friend”

This may come as a suprise to you, but it is not the unknown criminal that is robbing our seniors. Most abuse cases are perpetrated by the people closest to the the senior: caretakers, children, and friends.  While you are creating your estate plan, remember: who do you trust to make decisions that are best for YOU and cares more about YOU and YOUR well being rather than your money. Also, update your estate plan every few years- circumstances change!

Bettencourt does not want her daughter to control her estate

No one wants to lose control of making their own decisions. Guardianship trials can often tear families apart deciding whether mom or grandma really needs a guardian – and if so, who should it be? Although the senior you love may not agree with you dragging them into court, keep reminding yourself, and them- it is for their best interest. Also remember, even though you are guardian, you should still consider what your loved one prefers- where does SHE want to live? What would SHE want to do with her money? (i.e. art classes, caregiver preferences.)

Bettencourt changed her will leaving everything to her photographer/close friend

Often a diagnosis of dementia can come AFTER it is revealed that someone has been financially exploited or unduly influenced to change their will. This is where it is imperative that we take a look at the ethics of the attorney who agreed to draft a new estate plan when the creator did not have capacity. Also, who were the witnesses present? These issues all can come up in court during the guardianship trial or even after death in a will contest.

Bettencourt had not been paying taxes on her money

Often without a guardian or power of attorney, seniors with dementia can get into a lot of financial trouble on their own. They can forget to pay their bills, mortgage and/or taxes. If you have a loved one who is independent, you have several options to ensure their finances are being remembered. There are companies you can hire that will work with seniors just to pay bills. Also, a power of attorney for property can also authorize a TRUSTED loved one to assist with finances. If the senior already has dementia, guardianship is the best option to ensure all their financial decisions are taken care of.

*For the full Forbes article, CLICK HERE.