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Financial Exploitation and Adult Protection

The abuse of vulnerable adults is endemic in Arizona and across the nation. Our attorneys offer valuable experience in protecting elderly and incapacitated adults and in representing persons who are committed to those adults’ best interests.

Arizona law (e.g., A.R.S. § 46-456) provides that a person in whom a vulnerable adult has placed trust and confidence (such as a family member or an agent under a Power of Attorney) may use the vulnerable adult’s assets only for the benefit of the vulnerable adult. A person who violates that principle may be found liable for damages up to twice the amount proved.

Protecting Vulnerable Adults

Acts of exploitation may be committed by a wide variety of predators, including family members, caregivers, attorneys, private fiduciaries, medical providers, clergy, bank employees, telemarketers, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and confidants. Perpetrators may have no legal connection to the victim, or they may have a formal relationship pursuant to a trust, power of attorney, guardianship or conservatorship. As diverse as the field of financial exploiters may be, they generally exhibit one characteristic: They are people for whom the vulnerable adult has trust, confidence, affection and respect – and they abuse that trust.

Arizona law (A.R.S. § 46-451) defines a “vulnerable adult” as one who is “unable to protect himself from abuse, neglect or exploitation ... because of a physical or mental impairment” or incapacity. A.R.S. § 46-456 further defines the act of exploitation as the use of the vulnerable adult’s assets for the benefit of the exploiter, not for the benefit of the vulnerable adult, the rightful owner.

If found in violation of the law, the exploiter can be ordered to pay damages up to two times the amount of those proved, can be made responsible for payment of the petitioner’s attorneys’ fees and costs, may experience forfeiture of any interest under instruments of the vulnerable adult’s estate, as well as be subjected to other civil and criminal sanctions.

Attorneys Gary Strickland, Jerome Elwell and Phillip Visnansky can assist vulnerable adults and their families by setting up effective legal shields, including guardianships, conservatorships, orders of protection and other safeguards, and by taking legal action against the perpetrators. Gary Strickland is the former Maricopa County Public Fiduciary, as well as a former Deputy County Attorney and State of Arizona administrative law judge, and offers extensive experience in adult exploitation matters and related civil litigation.

Defending Against False Allegations

In contrast to actual financial exploitation, there are also occasions in which alleged victims or their friends or relatives make unsubstantiated allegations of exploitation. Such allegations may stem from a misunderstanding. Or, unfounded charges may be rooted in familial jealousy or an effort to gain or maintain control of the vulnerable adult’s affairs. False allegations can be just as deplorable and costly as actual acts of exploitation.

Defending against false allegations requires an attorney who is experienced in representing clients in vulnerable adult financial exploitation cases, can perceive improper motivation, understands the nuances of capacity law and Civil and Probate Court procedures, has thorough working knowledge of A.R.S. Titles 14 and 46 and understands the possible interplay between the two, and can involve credible and convincing legal and financial experts as needed.

As attorneys who are committed to issues involving the alleged exploitation of vulnerable adults, Gary Strickland, Jerome Elwell and Phillip Visnansky represent plaintiffs when warranted and defend wrongfully accused persons against unfounded allegations. They have successfully sought and recovered sizable assets for the estates of exploited individuals and defended in a number of cases where unsubstantiated claims have been made.

 

Attorneys

Gary Strickland

Gary Strickland

Jerome Elwell

Jerome Elwell

Phillip Visnansky

Phillip Visnansky

          

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