A Guardian or Power of Attorney Who Assumes a Duty to Care for a Person Over Age 60 Can Be Charged With Elder Abuse in New Jersey

HNWElder Abuse and Financial Exploitation, Elder Law, Guardianship Law

By Fredrick P. Niemann of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold New Jersey Elder Abuse Attorney

Crimes against those who cannot realistically defend themselves are considered particularly offensive because of the one-sided nature of the relationship, especially in cases involving the aged and the disabled. One of the most common offenses involves endangering the welfare of the elderly. In all cases, one charged must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have violated the specific law explicated by state statue.

What is Endangering the Welfare of an Elderly Person?

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-8, endangering the welfare of the elderly occurs when “a person having a legal duty to care for or who has assumed continuing responsibility for the care of a person 60 years of age or older…who abandons the elderly person… or unreasonably neglects to do… any act necessary for the physical or mental health of the elderly person is guilty of a third degree crime.”

There are several elements of this type of crime. First, the perpetrator has to have a legal duty to care for the elderly person. This does not automatically include children, because simply being the child of an elderly person does not automatically give you a legal duty to care for them. However, if you have a history of caring for the adult and then stop then you could be found to have a duty. A power of attorney or legal guardian does fall within the law’s application as each has a statutory duty of care to his or her ward.

The main act of this crime is when the perpetrator “abandons or “unreasonably neglects” the elderly person. The statute further defines “abandon” to mean “the willful desertion or forsaking of an elderly person.” Willful abandonment combines both a physical act and mental state of mind required to commit elder abuse. A person willfully abandons someone when they consciously decide to stop caring for an elderly person, regardless of the possible harm that could come to the elderly adult. I’ve seen many types of these cases recently and they are subject to civil and criminal prosecution.

To discuss a case of elder abuse by a guardian or power of attorney, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com/. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.


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