Can elder abuse be reported after the elder has passed away?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I have discovered since the death 10 days ago of an elderly friend that the caregiver with POA paid herself a large amount of money just weeks before my friend's death. Is it too late to report it to anyone, and to whom should it be reported? No will has been been filed for probate as of today and I do not know who the administrator of the estate will be.

Expert Answer

There are several people whom you might want to notify about your concerns that the individual with the POA authority abused that authority. First, if and when an administrator of the estate is appointed, he or she should be informed. Part of an administrator's duties is to determine if any monies are owed to the estate, and if the POA took money improperly, the administrator should try to have it returned.

Whether or not an administrator is appointed, your friend's heirs or others to whom the estate was left should also be notified. If the POA person took money inappropriately, then these are the folks who are losing out. If they find out things that confirm your suspicion, they can take legal action to have the money returned.

Also, almost every county has what's called a "public guardian," a government office that handles or oversees financial affairs for vulnerable people, primarily elders. If there has been financial elder abuse in your friend's case, they may be willing to investigate it and to take action, if appropriate, to have the money returned to the estate. How much the public guardian will get involved will depend on their rules in the particular county where your friend lived, their budget, and whether or not there are heirs or administrators who are also looking into the matter.

Finally, there is the police. If you believe that the person with the POA authority simply stole a large amount of money, you can certainly notify the police. How far they will go in investigating the matter will depend on what they initially hear from you -- whether it sounds like there is strong evidence of a crime -- and how much money was taken, as well as whether there is someone else like the public guardian looking into the matter.