At the Jacobson Law Firm, we represent a lot of senior/elder clients with estate planning, probate and other issues. A call yesterday reminded me of just how vulnerable this demographic is to unscrupulous opportunists through a technique called "social engineering". A client called and said an elderly family member had received a call from someone claiming to be a friend of her grandson's and told a story about the grandson being arrested for DWI and urgently needing $4,000 to get him out of jail. The caller had personal information on the grandson that convinced the grandmother the call was true, and asked her not to tell his father because he was so embarrassed. Fortunately, word got back to the father, who called his son, verifying nothing was wrong. He then called the scammer, who had the gall to yell at the father for wasting his time!
My parents were victims of the same sort of scam by someone pretending to be their grandson. Unfortunately, we didn't hear about it until they'd already sent money. In a similar scam, people will email the elder pretending to be a friend (again, the social engineering angle where they have enough information to be believed) who was robbed in London, lost passports and credit cards, had to pay the hotel bill or couldn't leave, etc., etc. Probably many of you reading this have had the calls from "The IRS" saying a lawsuit has been filed and the police are on their way to your office/house to arrest you if you don't pay up right away.
Thieves have bilked thousands and thousands of dollars out of good-hearted people this way. A BIG clue: if anybody says you have to buy gift cards to pay a debt - IT'S A SCAM. Do your elder family members a favor and check in with them regularly. Ask if they've gotten any odd calls or emails lately. Use that as a "teachable moment" to bring up some of these scams.
As always, the above is legal information, not legal advice, and it's based on Texas law because I'm a Texas lawyer. If you or your family members are faced with a situation like those described, be sure to contact the police and an experienced elder law attorney.
We do a lot of probate here at the Jacobson Law Firm, and it's a great privilege to serve families in that sometimes-challenging arena, especially when a will is being probated shortly after the death of the family member and the grieving process is ongoing. Sometimes the challenge is that family members are impatient to get the estate probated (to "get what's coming to me", or to just get it over with). This can lead to unfair pressure on the executor, who actually has four years to probate a will, though people don't usually wait that long. The person you name in your will as the executor of your estate should be able to withstand this kind of pressure without getting too annoyed, angry or fed up. If your spouse isn't that kind of personality, consider (after discussing with said spouse) naming an adult child or sibling who has a tougher hide.
Sometimes the problem is that the person named as executor has absolutely no interest in serving in that capacity, or actively refuses. We've had clients who named a prodigal child as executor, thinking that this vote of confidence would somehow change that child into a responsible adult. Don't! We've had to chase unwilling executors literally around the world to get them to either do the job or waive their right to serve, all because of something that happened years ago that never got resolved (or forgiven). An executor who has had a falling out with you or your family and is no longer in your life IS NOT THE PERSON YOU WANT IN CHARGE OF YOUR ESTATE.
As always, the above is legal information, not legal advice, and it's based on Texas law because I'm a Texas lawyer. Each case has its own unique facts, so be sure to consult an experienced probate lawyer if you find yourself in the position of being - or needing - an executor.
Musings, observations, the occasional whineage and some funny stuff.