Defending Accountants In Elder Care/Elder Abuse Litigation*

by Arthur V. Pearson

Why should those of us who litigate cases involving accountants be interested in Elder Care and Elder Abuse laws? The simple answer is because the AICPA encourages its members to provide services to the elderly and to their families. The AICPA calls it Elder Care Assurance Services (ECAS). The AICPA is promoting it with its membership, and we are seeing CPAs move into this new field of very nontraditional services. Where CPAs go, claims and litigation often follow.


The AICPA describes as Elder Care Services, three specific types of services: Consulting Services, Assurance Services, and Direct Services.

Consulting Services are defined as providing the family members responsible for the care of an elder with a listing of services and options available in the community, and working with them to establish goals for assistance to the elder, developing a customized delivery plan which indicates the types of service providers required to accomplish the care goals, communicating the expectations of required levels of performance to each service provider, and identifying criteria to measure performance. In essence, to be a resource for those who must care for or be responsible for the care of an elder.

Assurance Services begin with the family or client setting goals for care, and then specifying measurement criteria to determine if the specific goals were achieved. These might include: (1) review of routine financial transactions for reasonableness and adherence to criteria established for such transactions; (2) investigating and providing information to family members for handling of unusual or unexpected situations such as home maintenance and repair, or medical emergencies; (3) inspection of logs, diaries, and other evidence (including direct observation) to determine whether care givers are meeting the performance criteria agreed upon with the client or family; and (4) reporting to the client or family.

Direct Services include tasks that are usually performed by the elder or a family member but for the fact that the elder is incapable and the family member does not live close by. These tasks include: (1) receipt, deposit and accounting for income, and making sure expected revenues are received; (2) supervision of investments and accounting for the estate of the elder; (3) making arrangements for the appropriate level of care (in-house sitters, cooks, etc., or retirement facility care) and periodically visiting the client to ensure care being received meets the standards set by family members; (4) arranging transportation for clients; (5) supervision of household expenditures and making arrangements for unusual or unexpected requirements such as home maintenance and repair and medical emergencies; and (6) arranging for an assessment of the elderly person by a social worker, geriatric care manager, or geropsychiatrist.

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*A version of this paper was first presented at the 2000 Accountants Defense Network program sponsored by CNA. This paper is published with the permission of both the author and CNA. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CNA, Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney, or its clients.

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