It is generally easy to tell when something criminal is taking place or when someone is taking advantage of an individual who is mentally impaired, said Dr. Bennett Blum, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. But at least 80 percent of instances of abuse still go unreported, said Blum, who serves on the board of directors for the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and consults for the Fiduciary Abuse Specialist Teams in multiple counties in California.
That’s part of the reason, he said, the most challenging category is when an individual is minimally or not at all impaired but is being inappropriately manipulated by someone in their life. While there are many situations when advisors should be vigilant (and undue influence can be both overt aggression and covert deception), he added, they should be particularly aware if:
- They are working with a blended family that is a second or third marriage, and the couple has been together for five years or less.
- There has been a moderate-to-large change in how assets are being handled or, if dealing with estate plans, there’s been a change in benefit to a particular person or organization.
- The decision-maker develops any type of condition that impairs cognition even a little bit.
- There is an evident change in the client’s personality.
- There is marked change in the nature and quality of relationships between the client and other family members or friends.
- There has been a recent change in the people the client trusts as advisors.