Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog


Florida Residents Get More Protection From Financial Fraud

Elder Abuse Awareness Month is June, so it is an appropriate time to share some good news. Beginning next year, elderly and vulnerable Floridians are getting more protection from financial exploitation, thanks to Florida’s recent passage of the Protection of Specified Adults Act.

But there’s bad news, too: Seniors urgently need the extra protection the new law provides. There is an ever-growing incidence of scammers using all kinds of technologies to fleece seniors, from text messages to emails, to phony phone calls. With more assets than other age groups and more likely to be socially isolated or suffer cognitive or physical impairments, seniors are the predators’ preferred victims. According to the Florida Senate, elder fraud in Florida caused losses of more than $15 billion in 2022.

But it is not just strangers who rip off the elderly. Tragically, it can be a trusted individual such as a family member or a caregiver. In these cases the victims may be so dependent on the abuser, or so concerned about being forced to move to a nursing home, that they never speak up, even when they realize they are being exploited.

 

The Role of Financial Institutions 

The new law focuses on the role of financial institutions, where vulnerable seniors may make withdrawals – sometimes even their life savings – while being scammed or pressured by other bad actors. When a financial institution suspects exploitation of a customer 65 or older, or over 18 and mentally, emotionally, physically or developmentally impaired, the law provides guidelines for it to follow. Here are the highlights:

 

  • If financial exploitation is suspected, the disbursement of money may be delayed for 15 business days. Under certain circumstances, the delay may be extended an additional 30 business days.

 

  • Within 3 business days following the initial delay, the financial institution must provide written notice to all parties authorized to transact business on the account (unless one of those parties is suspected of perpetrating the fraud). If there is a “trusted contact” on that account, he/she will also be notified.

 

  • The financial institution must promptly begin investigating the facts that led to the suspicion of financial fraud.

 

  • The financial institution must develop training programs to educate employees about financial exploitation, and policies for reporting suspected exploitation to supervisors.

 

  • A financial institution that has acted in good faith and has complied with the guidelines of the law has immunity from any administrative and civil liability that may occur as a result of delaying the disbursement.

 

Sponsored by Senators Darryl Ervin (D-St. Petersburg) and Lauren Book (D-Davie), the bill goes into effect on January 1, 2025. You can read a summary of the new law here.

 

How to Protect Yourself Against Financial Exploitation

Many people do not realize that elder law/estate planning attorneys are concerned with the quality of their clients’ lives – not just with how their clients’ assets are handled after death.  An experienced estate planning attorney will advise you about the essential plans and documents you need to protect yourself during your lifetime from potential predators and maintain your independence. Among these essential documents are a  durable power of attorney. In some cases we may advise naming co-trustees in your trust. Your attorney will also be a good sounding board as you evaluate who to name to important positions of trust. For assistance with these plans, schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys by calling The Karp Law Firm at 561-625-1100.