Financial abuse of elders is an ongoing problem, and many adult children want to sue the perpetrators who victimized their parents. Sometimes, though, the elders aren't always cooperative and their family members wonder if they can press forward with a suit over the person's objections. It is possible, but you'll face a few challenges.
You Must Have Standing to Sue
The biggest roadblock you'll hit in your quest to get justice for your parent is that you must have what's called standing to file a lawsuit. Essentially, the court will ask whether you suffered injury to your legal interests. Only people who were directly impacted by the financial abuse have standing to sue the perpetrator.
So, unless some of the money or property taken belonged to you, any lawsuit you launched will be dismissed by the court for lack of standing, since the actual victim is your parent.
Having said that, though, you can file a suit on your parent's behalf, but only if you are their legally recognized representative who has the power to make decisions in your parent's stead. People who are conservators, guardians, or who have the power of attorney for their parents fit this role. You may also be considered a legal representative if you're appointed the trustee for your parent's estate after they pass.
If none of those roles describe you, then unfortunately you might not be able to sue on your parent's behalf, even if they are mentally incapacitated in some way.
The Statute of Limitation May Have Passed
Another issue you have to be careful of is the statute of limitations. The law limits how long people have to sue others, and the time limit varies depending on where you live. The clock starts ticking either when the fraudulent activity was discovered or when the victim should have known about it.
For instance, your parent knew their grandchild was illegally transferring money from their bank account but didn't say anything. The statute of limitations clock would start then and run out in however many years it's valid for in your state (e.g. 3 years).
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to work out whether the claim is still valid or not, particularly when your parent suffers from a neurological condition that affects their memory, such as dementia. If they're unable to recall when certain events happened, you may be stuck piecing a timeline together from documents and other people's testimonies, which may or may not lead to the truth.
In this situation, it may be best to consult with an attorney who can help you figure out whether your claim is still viable and suggest other solutions for addressing your grievances if it's not.
For more information about suing for financial abuse, contact an attorney, such as Arrington Schelin, a Professional Corporation.
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