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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Financial exploitation of Minnesota's elderly is on the rise

Numerous studies have shown that financial exploitation of elderly people is on the rise in Minnesota and the rest of the nation. Many Minnesota families unfortunately do not even realize that this kind of exploitation has been going on until after their loved one has passed away and they get a look at the deceased's finances. In many cases, the would-be heirs are surprised when they see their loved one's will has listed suspicious strangers as beneficiaries. In some cases, this develops into a disagreement over inheritance that must be resolved in court.

A recent case gives insight into how some exploitation works. Police arrested a 27-year-old woman on theft charges after prosecutors say she talked an 85-year-old man into giving her thousands of dollars and tried to get him to give her thousands more.

According to prosecutors, the woman befriended the man at a public library when she offered to help him carry his books home. She later met with the man and told him a story about her dead husband. In fact, the woman is married to an 82-year-old man who is still alive, prosecutors said. According to prosecutors, she told the man that she needed $2,600 in legal fees or else she would lose her right to her fictitious dead husband's estate.

The man reportedly gave her the money and they remained in contact. A few weeks later, she asked him for $20,000 to start a business, prosecutors said. At this point, the man reportedly became suspicious and contacted police.

There are unscrupulous individuals and companies that will take advantage of an older person's loneliness and diminished health for their own financial advantage. In some cases, these people manipulate or coerce people into rewriting their wills to leave assets to the scam artist. In cases such as these, families may contest the will, arguing that it should be invalidated because it was made under undue influence.

Will contests can be very difficult, emotionally and technically, but they can be crucial to holding scam artists accountable for their misdeeds. It is important for Minnesota residents who think that their loved ones were financially exploited to get help understanding their legal options.

Source: RedEye, "Woman charged with exploitation used phony story: Prosecutors," Rachel Cromidas, Aug. 16, 2013

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