The Elder Law Task Force of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (the "Task Force") recently issued a report containing 130 recommendations to prevent elder abuse in Pennsylvania. A large portion of the report and a significant number of the recommendations focus on the prevention of financial abuse of elders.

The report finds that behind self-neglect and caretaker abuse, financial abuse is the leading type of abuse against elder adults (defined as adults age 60 and above) in Pennsylvania. In the 2012 to 2013 time frame, 18,542 reports of need for older adult protective services were made in Pennsylvania. The report estimates that financial abuse is present in 30 percent of elder abuse cases. The Task Force cites a 2011 study published by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, which found that elder financial abuse costs victims more than $2.9 billion annually.

The Task Force reviewed several ways to reduce financial abuse of elders including amending laws relating to powers of attorney (POAs) to provide more individuals with legal standing to challenge POAs and requiring financial institutions to take a more active role in preventing elder abuse.

The report finds that financial institutions are many times in the best position to detect, report, and prevent elder financial abuse and contains several recommendations including:

  • Designating financial institutions as mandatory reporters of suspected elder abuse (The Task Force notes that currently financial institutions are mandatory reporters of elder abuse in several states.)
  • Requiring financial institutions to provide training, in conformance with state-mandated standards, for employees who process transactions for elder customers
  • Providing financial institutions with the authority to hold transactions for five days, during which time the financial institution would be expected to report the suspicious activity and determine whether to permit the transaction

The Task Force uses Maryland, which has some of the most stringent elder financial reporting laws in the country, including both an oral and written notification requirement, as an example to be followed for both reporting suspected elder abuse and for providing mandatory training to employees.

Though many of the recommendations in the report, including the requirements on financial institutions, require legislative action before becoming binding, financial institutions should be preparing elder abuse prevention and reporting programs to comply with heightened state and federal interest in this area. 

Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Financial Services Group has substantial experience developing elder abuse prevention and reporting programs and advising clients on updates to elder abuse reporting laws. To view the materials from a recent Ballard Spahr webinar regarding instituting an elder financial abuse prevention and reporting program, please click here.

For more information, please contact Alan S. Kaplinsky at 215.864.8544 or kaplinsky@ballardspahr.com, John L. Culhane, Jr., at 215.864.8535 or culhane@ballardspahr.com, or Joseph J. Schuster at 215.864.8614 or schusterj@ballardspahr.com. 


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