The Gold Digger
“She takes my money when I’m in need
Yeah, she’s a triflin’ friend indeed
Oh, she’s a gold digger way over town
That digs on me.”
~ Ray Charles and Kanye West
While the lyrics may be slightly tongue-in-cheek, there is nothing funny about elder abuse. Elderly people are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation in many forms. One of the most insidious forms is exploitation masquerading as romantic love. Traditional notions that the “gold digger” was always a young, attractive female exploiting an older man have given way to the reality of gender equality. Just as often, it is a younger male exploiting an older woman of financial means. Oftentimes, the exploiter is a contemporary, but the sirens don’t go off for family as quickly as they do when someone younger starts showing interest.
Elderly people are uniquely vulnerable to this particular type of exploitation for several reasons. First, they have often been able to accumulate some assets. Second, they may find themselves alone for the first time in decades after the death of a spouse. Third, they may live away from their children and extended family. All of these factors make an elderly person an easy target for would-be gold diggers.
Money magazine recently featured an article called “When Dad Marries a Gold Digger.” The article recounts sad stories of gold diggers moving in, isolating an elderly adult from his or her family, and then squandering their money while neglecting the person they “love” or abandoning them when the family steps in to put an end to it. Sadly, our office sees these types of cases too often.
It is difficult to prevent exploitation and it is often difficult to deal with it once it is discovered. Depending on when it is discovered (before marriage or after? before death or after? before accounts have been drained or after?) there are various legal mechanisms to intervene and address the exploitation. Some require the cooperation of the exploited senior (a restraining order keeping the gold digger away) and some do not (petition to determine incapacity). Causes of action include, but are not limited to, exploitation of the elderly, civil theft, and undue influence. Finally, there is the ever-frustrating reality that spent money is nearly impossible to recover from someone with no assets. Sometimes families will spend their own money on principle just to teach the gold digger a lesson and make his or her life miserable and sometimes a cost-benefit analysis means the gold digger gets away with it.
Families with healthy dynamics who stay in touch and visit often are the least likely to fall victim to a gold digger. However, sometimes even routine communication is not enough protection.
If you are concerned that an elderly family member is being exploited, call the offices of Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. to find out what your options are to protect a loved one.