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Probate litigation sometimes necessary in elder abuse cases

According to a recent report, most victims of elder abuse know the person abusing them. Often, it is a family member or a caretaker. Elder abuse has increased since the economy has been struggling. A common form of elder abuse is financial exploitation involving the changing of a will or trust.

When a person dies, a probate court determines his or her assets and expenses and sees to the finalization of the estate, including how the assets will be distributed. Usually, if the individual has left a will, assets are distributed in accordance with that will. However, sometimes the will is contested, which can lead to probate litigation.

Common reasons that one would contest a will include not all of the beneficiaries having a proper inventory of the assets, a dispute over conservatorships or guardianships, or a beneficiary's failure of financial responsibility regarding expenses. As seen in a growing number of elder abuse cases, another reason for probate litigation is the claim of undue influence.

State laws have recently been enacted to try and curb the number of elder abuse instances in Michigan, including stiffer penalties for financial exploitation and the prevention of convicted abusers from inheriting money from their victims. Another new law requires the conservator or guardian to report the values of assets that can be readily converted to cash.

Several other new laws and amendments have been passed in the hopes of protecting the lives and finances of those who are too vulnerable to protect themselves through stronger means of prosecution, stronger financial safety nets for the elderly and better reporting by those entrusted to handle their affairs.

Source: The Macomb Daily, "Efforts intensify in Michigan to protect elderly, vulnerable adults," Jameson Cook, June 16, 2013

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