Dear Abby: Man’s abrupt change to his will may signal elder abuse

After promising an inheritance to longtime friend, 90-year-old inexplicably decided all of the estate should go to his caregivers.

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DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from an individual whose failing, elderly friend made an abrupt change to his will (“Promise Withdrawn in Texas,” Aug. 27). Because of the change, the elder’s entire estate will go to his live-in caregivers. The writer expressed surprise that the 90-year-old gentleman had reneged on his oft-repeated promise to name the individual in his will.

Your reply to the writer was to speak to the elder and ask why he changed his will. That is reasonable advice, but your answer should also have recommended a referral to the writer’s local Adult Protective Services office. Elder exploitation is rampant in the United States. It is not uncommon for caregivers, relatives and other trusted associates to prey upon elders for financial gain. That may come about in many ways, but social isolation, dependence upon others, failing health and cognitive decline can make elders susceptible to abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Adult Protective Services typically uses trained investigators to detect exploitation and refer crimes to law enforcement. One could reasonably suspect exploitation when a 90-year-old makes a sudden change to a will to exclude a longstanding friend. Reporters may call local law enforcement, their state’s Adult Protective Services office or the U.S. Administration on Aging. As you cautioned, there is no time to waste. — ELDER JUSTICE PROSECUTOR

DEAR PROSECUTOR: Thank you for sharing your insight and expertise regarding the subject of elder abuse. I appreciate it, and I’m sure my readers will as well. People should consider the possibility of exploitation in similar circumstances, which, sadly, may occur more often than we would like to think.

DEAR ABBY: My granddaughter “Anabelle” is expecting a baby in five months. We would like to be happy and excited for her and her husband except for one issue. She had a falling-out with her parents over planning her wedding, among other things.

Her grandfather, my husband, walked her down the aisle because all parties involved were still angry. Her parents and sister did not attend, although she and her sister have recently made up. I think my son and his wife would also like to reconcile, but Anabelle remains adamant that she doesn’t want to see them. As with most families, there’s a history of hurt feelings on both sides.

Our problem: Anabelle has asked us not to tell her parents she’s expecting. I feel this is wrong, but I am respecting her wishes. I know if I tell them at this late date or if they find out some other way, they will be understandably hurt and angry and may want to “kill the messenger.” I feel stuck in the middle of this heartbreaking situation. The worry over it is making me ill. Should I share this news or stay quiet? — TIED IN KNOTS OUT WEST

DEAR TIED: While the breach in your family is regrettable, news of this pregnancy is not yours to give. If your granddaughter wanted to keep it a secret, she should not have shared it and put you in the middle. If you are wise, you will stay out of it.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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