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Keeping Peace after Death

Elder Fraud

Keeping Peace after Death: What you can do to prevent estate battles

By Douglas D. Noreen

A recent article in TIME magazine stated that new studies are showing that as people age, they are becoming more and more socially isolated from their peers and society as a whole. The article focused on how this phenomenon has been shown to have an adverse effect on the health of aging individuals, with studies equating social isolation with cigarette smoking as similar risk factors for early mortality. It is incredible that social isolation can cause health problems that as are bad as a lifetime of smoking, but the research bears this out.

However, this article also was interesting in the context of estate litigation, and seemed to correlate with a recent influx of estate litigation cases that we have had here at Howard Stallings. We are more and more beginning to see estate problems and disputes arise from elderly persons that are isolated who end up being victims of financial abuse or undue influence. An isolated person is more likely to be unduly influenced than a person active in their community and/or family. In addition, scammers target elderly persons with promises of everything from “sweepstakes” winnings (just pay a small fee to release your winnings!) to money from Nigeria (how many princes do they have over there?).  We recently had a client who was contacted over the phone by someone asking for personal information. Unfortunately, she gave out her personal information on this call. However, she thereafter told family members whom she was close with about it, who immediately took action to protect her. On the contrary, we recently accepted a case dealing with an older gentlemen who had sent money overseas. He was not in frequent contact with his family, and it took them some time to figure out what was happening. While the funds gone are likely to be unrecoverable, at least they can stop it now.

So what can elderly persons do to help themselves, from both a health and estate perspective? Stay active! Volunteer. Visit your kids. Stay active in your church. Not only does this have health benefits, but it can protect you from future estate issues. And for family members, make sure you are keeping in touch with elderly relatives, and encourage them to be active. This can prevent you from uncovering issues after they have passed that you weren’t aware of.

If you have questions or need assistance with Estate Planning or Estate Litigation please contact Douglas Noreen at (919) 821-7700 or email

TIME article:

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