Protecting Our Family When It Matters Most

A drama currently playing out in a French courtroom demonstrates that any elderly person can fall victim to financial abuse, even the second wealthiest woman in the world.

Lilliane Bettencourt, 92, is heiress to the L’Oreal cosmetics fortune, and Forbes has estimated her worth at $40 billion.  According to a recent New York Times story, a current lawsuit in French court — dubbed the “Bettencourt affair” — is a universal story of an elderly, wealthy woman who vacillates between vulnerability and independence.

No doubt due to her vast wealth, Mrs. Bettencourt has spend almost the last decade of her life in and out of French courts.  Her only child, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, sought to have her declared incompetent four years ago when it was discovered that Mrs. Bettencourt had gifted more than $1 billion to a society photographer, François-Marie Banier.  Banier is the focus of the current case, where he is being prosecuted for financial exploitation along with several others, including Mrs. Bettencourt’s former wealth manager.

Elder financial abuse is also becoming more prevalent in the U.S., and there are a number of advance planning tools that families can employ to help prevent financial exploitation.  These include:

Advance medical directives — these documents detail your wishes as to your medical care in case of incapacity, names a person to make health care decisions on your behalf and spells out who can be given access to your medical records.  This should protect you and your family from having to go to court in order to make medical decisions for you and saves them the cost and time/energy of a guardianship application, which can run into several thousands of dollars.

Financial power of attorney – these name your choices for the person who will be given the power to handle your financial affairs in case you are no longer able to do so yourself.  A financial power of attorney will save your family the cost of having to go to court to get access to your financial accounts and to pay your bills if you are not able to do it yourself. An unnecessary court process could cost your family $10,000 or more.  Plus, we are hearing reports from many states of children applying for financial conservatorship of their parents, not being able to qualify and watching their parents’ assets dwindle to nothing when a professional conservator is appointed.

Trusts – in the event you become incapacitated, if you are assets are titled in trust, your Successor Trustee can step right in and easily handle things on your behalf with a simple document from your attorney and not have to get the court involved at all.  This is only true IF your assets are titled properly in the name of your trust. Oftentimes, when working with a traditional forms or documents lawyer or a service like LegalZoom®, your assets will not be titled properly, so be sure to double-check that now.

A Personal Attorney — sometimes even the best documents will not keep your family out of court.  What you really need is an attorney who knows you — and knows who you trust and have a relationship with — to ease the process for your loved ones and to ensure greedy financial folks don’t rip you off.

As a Personal Family Lawyer®, I can further advise you on all your options and make things as easy as possible for your family during a Family Wealth Planning Session.  If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

To your family’s health, wealth and happiness!

David Feakes

P.S.  Want to get started on the most important planning you’ll ever do for your family?  Give our office a call at (978) 263-6900 to get started.  You’ll be so glad you did.

David Feakes is the owner of The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC – a law firm for families in the Acton, Massachusetts area.  David helps parents protect the people they love the most.  If you would like to receive David’s exclusive, free report, “Six Major Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing An Estate Planning Attorney,”  you can get it right here.

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The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC

At The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, we answer your questions at your convenience; we stay in frequent communication; and we meet to discuss changes in life circumstances and in the law to ensure that your assets are protected.

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The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC is a unique estate planning law firm serving families in Massachusetts. Our team is committed to helping parents at all stages make sure their loved ones are completely protected if the unexpected happens, while making things as easy as possible for their families.

31 Nagog Park, Suite 301, Acton, MA 01720 | 978-263-6900 | [email protected] |