Protecting Assets Amidst Rise in Elder Marriage Scams

Elder Care

In addition to many tax, Medicare/Medicaid, reverse mortgage, and other financial scams targeting the elderly, another type of fraud is now growing. Marriage scams victimizing the elderly affect men and women fairly equally, according to research at the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). Even if an aging relative has not exhibited any signs of cognitive decline or emotional distress, deteriorating health or loss of a loved one could later prompt him or her to become attached to an individual targeting seniors for their wealth.

When families prepare elder care legal plans to ensure powers of attorney are in place, preserve government benefit eligibility, and prepare for long-term healthcare costs, they might not consider structuring assets to prevent a future financially-focused spouse from scamming their loved one into marriage and out of a lifetime of savings.
One of the most popular ways to achieve asset preservation is through the use of trusts. The trust document provides confidential, clear instructions for the distribution of trust assets. Depending on the terms of the trust, an elderly spouse may structure their plan to mitigate spousal claims in divorce and to ensure that their assets pass to their own children, rather than to those of a spouse in a second marriage. Have a North Carolina elder law attorney prepare the documents to ensure they are properly completed.
Seniors who re-marry later in life might wish to be mindful of the amount of accounts and assets held jointly with their new spouse. Jointly held assets generally pass directly to the other co-owner immediately upon one owner’s death. Other surviving family members would not be entitled to these assets. An elder law attorney can help identify assets with beneficiary designations, Payable on Death (POD) forms, and Transfer on Death (TOD) forms to ensure documents reflect the wishes of the account owner.
If time allows and an aging relative is not rushed into a marriage scam, encourage them to create a comprehensive prenuptial agreement. These agreements will state exactly how current and future assets will be distributed in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements for seniors can ensure children from prior marriages are provided for, preserve important assets, and ensure that reasonable disclosure of assets is provided. Postnuptial agreements might be an alternative if an agreement was not executed before the couple married. If a scamming spouse encourages the victim to relocate to a different state, this might be an attempt to void an agreement. For example, a case earlier this year highlighted that some states do not recognize postnuptial agreements executed out-of-state.
Marrying a wealthy senior might be attractive to a con artist, but there are potential risks for fraudsters. Learn about inheriting a spouse’s debts, which could be significant if extensive healthcare requirements late in life accrue high medical bills.
Share this information with concerned family members and discuss options with an elder law attorney.
By Attorney Katie Muhlenkamp
Address: 1414 Raleigh Rd Ste 203, Chapel Hill NC 27517
Phone: 919.636.0950 | Toll Free: 800.201.0413 | Fax: 919.493.6355 |