I received the call from my mother’s financial advisor’s assistant on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. Markets and offices would be closing soon for the long weekend. My mother had called in a panic needing to know what her account balances were and how quickly a transfer of $60,000 could be made.

I will be forever grateful for that phone call.

My mother cannot see herself as a victim of elder financial exploitation because the blinders of love and shame prevent her from seeing the pattern of abuse that typifies this crime. Her financial advisor, however, could see a pattern and had informed his team to call me if something looked awry.

I do not hold the financial reins of my mother’s accounts. When she and my late father created their estate and financial plans over thirty years ago, they designated me as trustee, co-signor on various accounts, healthcare proxy, Power of Attorney, and executor. They routinely reviewed their plans and never varied their designations even as bequests or provisions changed with births of grandchildren or other life events. As the youngest of three, I became that “just in case” safety net in the event of sudden death or incapacitation. With my law degree and experience in the investment and banking industry in Boston, I was their choice to hold those powers.

The good news is that my mother still has all her marbles. The bad news is the same. I do not hold the powers legally required to override her decisions or supplant her decisions with mine. For me to assume those reins, she had to voluntarily relinquish control or be declared “incapacitated” due to illness, injury, or the ravages of age.

The assistant was in a tough spot. She knew that a panicked call on the eve of a three-day weekend fell into a murky red zone. Predators often create a heightened sense of crisis by having a looming deadline. Bail, foreclosures, bill collection, or other dire circumstances rush forward on a timeline of the predator’s own creation. Only an infusion of cash from the victim will save the day. The stated reason for this transfer also caused concern.

“Your mom said she needs to pay for repairs to her home and for insurance.”

“My mom hasn’t owned that home for over three years. She’s lived in an apartment for over a year.”

The silence on the phone deafened both of us. We both knew that if my mother wanted to make that transfer, she could regardless of the history that preceded it or the future it foretold.

And what a history. My mother is the only child of immigrants who lived the American Dream by founding a dairy farm not far from New York City. My grandfather acquired hundreds of acres of land. He grew the crops, fed and milked the cows. My father ran the dairy that included a fleet of trucks that delivered fresh milk to the communities’ doorsteps.

Being an only child simplified many aspects of her financial life, but she didn’t hesitate in reaching out to experts in creating her financial and estate plans. Her financial advisor was an essential voice in a tightly-knit team of lawyers, tax professionals, my mother, and me.

A transparent and proactive relationship gave the advisor and his assistant the comfort and latitude to call me if something didn’t sit well with them. Maintaining financial privacy is a key component in an advisory relationship as well as the trust keeping that privacy engenders. Year’s before, my mother used a loan margin account to help fund a venture of her predator. To the advisor, his view looked like a solid solution to support for a business launch. When repayments stopped and interest charges increased, the advisor called me with concern.

Because of my longstanding roles in my mother’s financial life, we could talk beyond the numbers on the page. For a family experiencing the oblique reasoning of exploitation, recognizing and responding to an emerging pattern of abuse is a game of Wack-a-Mole between the family and a determined predator. As the unpaid loan balance grew, my conversations with my mother’s advisor were the first data points in what coalesced into a pattern of financial exploitation and abuse.

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