Basics

Jurisdiction and Case Types

Elder abuse may be the subject matter of or a legal issue in criminal, civil, family or probate cases. Jurisdiction for a case involving elder abuse therefore could lie in a variety of courts or divisions of courts. Elder abuse also may be an underlying issue in cases in which elder abuse is not the substantive issue before the court.

Criminal cases. In some states, elder abuse is a specific crime defined in the criminal code and therefore may be before the court explicitly as an elder abuse case. In all states, an older person could be the victim of any offense set out in a state's criminal code, including assault, battery, sexual assault, theft, fraud, and financial exploitation.

Civil cases. In all states, elder persons may seek a civil order of protection against domestic abuse by a family member. Elder abuse also may be a factor in civil claims for damages or other relief from identity theft, financial exploitation, undue influence, fraud, and deceptive practices. Other civil actions that may involve elder abuse include petitions for access to an elderly person and petitions for removal of durable power of attorney.

Probate and guardianship cases. Elder abuse is potentially an issue in cases that fall under a court's probate jurisdiction. One of the purposes of probate courts is to protect the safety and financial interests of elderly, disabled or vulnerable adults. Elder abuse and financial exploitation may be issues across the range of cases heard in probate courts, including amendments of wills and trusts, exercise of power of attorney, guardianship of the person, guardianship of the estate or property, and conservatorship.

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