Resources For Professionals

Explore our broad assortment of information and materials to learn more about how older adults make financial decisions. Whether you are a finance professional, psychologist or caregiver, you’ll find resources relevant to your needs. See our special section for Caregivers, too.  Want to learn more? Read a Department of Justice article about the creation of the Lichtenberg tools.

Research & Publications

The complete bibliography of Dr. Peter Lichtenberg's published research on assessing financial decision making and vulnerability in older adults.

Most Recent

  • Peter A. Lichtenberg, Maggie Tocco, and LaToya N. Hall 

    The rise in scams against older adults has caused more frequent Adult Protective Service investigations into these cases. One possible predictor of scam involvement involves the assessment of informed financial decision ­making. This study examined 175 scam APS cases using a 10-item financial-decision making tool.  Results showed 2/3 of the sample displayed deficits in decision ­making. The decision-making tool was effective in differentiat­ing those with deficits from those without. This research illustrates the types of deficits endemic to scams and how use of the Financial Decision Tracker can be used to detect vulnerabilities and promote conversation to fhelp prevent scams.

    Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect; https:/ /
  • Work to understand the subpopulations of older adult financial exploitation victims and their experiences is greatly needed. This study uses betrayal trauma theory (BTT) as the foundation for conceptualizing the harm that arises from elder family financial exploitation. Older adults who were victims of elder family financial exploitation had significantly lower functional ability scores, higher stress and financial exploitation vulnerability scores and lost more money on average than those victimized by strangers. BTT provides a valuable framework for understanding why older adult family financial exploitation victims are more vulnerable than victims of exploitation committed by strangers.

    Aging & Mental Health, DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2023.2199688 April 2023
  • Adult protective services (APS) agencies investigate cases of financial exploitation, and a
    critical aspect of such investigations is often the assessment of decision-making abilities. This study examined APS workers’ implementation of a 10-item financial decision-making screening tool, the Financial Decision Tracker (FDT), across a 34-month period.  839 scales were administered. Individuals with no decision-making deficits were slightly older and had completed high school at a significantly higher rate (69% vs 59%, χ 2(1) = 5.20, p = .023) than those who had decision-making deficits. The implementation trial can be considered a success. The FDT is now an APS best practices tool.

    Gerontologist, 2023, Vol. 63, No. 3, 501–510
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Training & Education

Videos & Webinars

Deepen your knowledge by watching Dr. Lichtenberg present webinars to the National Adult Protective Services Association and conduct an actual Financial Vulnerability Assessment.


A carefully vetted list of credible organizations that provide safe, accurate information about protecting older adults from financial abuse and preventing financial exploitation.

Start Training to Use the Interviews for Professionals
Certification is simple and straightforward. Our convenient online training shows you how to administer the assessments to achieve accuracy and reliability. Training to become certified to use the Decision Tracker and the Family & Friends Interview is available to all professionals. Training and certification to use the Vulnerability Assessment, however, should be completed only by a mental health professional.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Explore questions and answers around financial decision-making terms and concepts

Do I have to be trained to administer these interviews?

Yes.Training insures that the interviews are conducted reliably and effectively to produce the most accurate results. Our trainings are designed to be easy to follow while insuring mastery of the interview skills.

What is undue influence?

Influence or coercion by someone who intentionally uses his or her role and power to deceive and exploit the trust, dependency, and fear of another and gain decision-making control. The influencer uses various techniques or manipulations over time to gain power and compliance. These can be so subtle that the victim doesn’t realize he or she is being manipulated. Many cases of financial exploitation result from undue influence.

How can I identify undue influence in an older adult?

Some common signs are:

  1. Significant gifts to people like caregivers, service providers, and acquaintances outside the usual sphere of the older adult’s love and commitment.
  2. Gifts to anyone that are so large they threaten the older adult’s economic security.
  3. Loans, particularly if undocumented, to anyone.
  4. The older adult’s fiduciary (such as an attorney or trustee) making decisions that reflect poor judgment or conflict of interest.
  5. Estate planning documents naming non-family members as fiduciaries or beneficiaries.
  6. Joint accounts with non-family members.
  7. Checks prepared by others but signed by the older adult.
  8. Bequests or other arrangements favoring one child, particularly if that child lives with the older adult.
  9. Large discrepancies between the older adult’s understanding of his or her estate and its true value
  10. Excessive fees charged by professional finance managers such as trustees, attorneys, financial advisors and stockbrokers.
What’s the difference between being a conservator, guardian, and having power of attorney?

A conservator is a person (family member, friend, or paid professional), agency or institution appointed by the court to make financial decisions for someone a judge has determined is unable to make such decisions.

A guardian is a person (family, friend, or paid professional), agency, or institution appointed by the court to make personal decisions for another. Unlike a conservator, a guardian’s authority is often limited by statutes and can also be limited by the judge to specific tasks or decisions based on the retained capacities of the person.

A power of attorney is a legal instrument used to delegate authority to another. The person who signs a power of attorney is called the “principal,” and the person to granted the authority is delegated is the “agent.” A “durable” power of attorney enables the agent to act for the principal even after the principal loses capacity to make decisions, and is effective until revoked by the principal or until the principal’s death. A durable power of attorney generally refers to financial decisions and can be an effective alternative to guardianship, allowing an individual to plan for the control of his or her affairs in the event of incapacity.

What is financial incapacity?

The law starts with an assumption of capacity, which refers to decision making regarding a number of financial tasks, such as general financial management of assets and debts, writing checks, paying bills, knowing and using currency and coins, making contracts and writing wills. Financially incapacity means a person is unable to manage their financial resources. This can be the result of a number of conditions including mental illness, dementia, drug use, physical illness and disability. Determination of incapacity is complex. Psychological evaluations, medical reviews, as well as legal standards (that vary from state-to-state) are used in the determination.


Some of the terms used in assessing financial decision making are academic, medical or legal in nature. Find simple, accurate definitions of these profession-specific terms here.

Financial Capacity

The ability of an individual to manage his or her own money and financial affairs and make relevant decisions while keeping in mind possible financial and legal consequences of those acts.

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