We’ve recently blogged about several states adopting new elder abuse legislation. Now, Missouri lawmakers appear to be joining the ever-growing number of states that are paying closer attention to the problem of elder abuse. A bill recently passed the Missouri legislature and is waiting to be signed into law by the governor. This bill criminalizes financial elder abuse, making such instances of abuse a felony offense punishable by up to 15 years in a state prison.
Under the terms of the proposed law, anyone who is in a position of influence over an elderly person or that person’s finances who uses his or her position for financial gain has committed financial elder abuse. Currently, Missouri law only prohibits physical elder abuse as a felony offense. The new law makes financial abuse equal to acts of physical elder abuse.
The law applies to people in positions of influence over an elderly person or his or her finances. This means it applies to adult guardians, those who have power of attorney, or anyone who is a financial manager or has a fiduciary duty to an elderly person.
The law also gives the state Department of Social Services the right to release certain records to state prosecutors investigating any suspected or reported financial exploitation. If a person is convicted of financial elder abuse, the law also allows a court to order a convicted person to pay restitution, part of which will go to reimburse the state for prosecution expenses.
Financial elder abuse is often an under-reported phenomena as many elderly people who suffered this type of abuse do not have the ability to either recognize it as is going on, or are isolated enough that they have no one to talk to.