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Considering the risk of elder abuse in your estate plan

On 15 June each year, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) highlights one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society – elder abuse.

Elderly people are often the most vulnerable and at risk of being targeted for abuse, as they are viewed as easier to take advantage of – sometimes with little ability to protect themselves.

With such a large part of the Australian population expected to be in the elder category soon, it makes addressing elder abuse even more important.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse as described by the World Health Organisation is “an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes harm to an adult 60 years and older”.

They have projected that around 1 in 6 people, 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in community settings during the past year – taking on various forms, such as physical, psychological, emotional, financial abuse and neglect.

Important to note, that elder abuse has become even more prevalent during COVID-19 as elders have been more separated from those who care for them.

WEAAD brings light to elder abuse and encourages all of us to respect the rights, autonomy and independence of older Australians to own and still have control over their own assets.

Fortunately, estate planning is one way in which elderly people can take action now to protect themselves and their assets.

Enduring Power of Attorney

Generally, older people want to remain living in their own home for as long as possible, insistent on maintaining their mobility and independence.

However, remaining in the home becomes a concern when their mental and physical health start to decline. In turn, children or other loved ones start engaging support services on their behalf.

By having an Enduring Power of Attorney in place, you have appointed people you know and trust to take care of both your financial and personal/health matters whilst you are alive, even if you have lost capacity to make these decisions yourself.

Documenting who will be in charge of your affairs and who will have access your property and accounts, may safeguard and protects your future – especially from loved ones who become impatient, seek to take advantage of your situation, and start depriving you of your needs.

Once a person has lost their capacity, they lose their ability to create and Enduing Power of Attorney. If financial and personal/health decisions need to be made, someone will need to make an application to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for an order to be appointed as your financial administrator and/or guardian. This can be expensive and timely process.

Therefore, it is especially important for the elderly to have both financial and personal/health attorneys in place now, before it’s too late and they have lost the capacity to express their view, wishes or preferences.

Asset protection

We sometimes see issues where family members start become impatient for their inheritance from their elders and start to think they are entitled to certain assets.

Beneficiaries who assume they are benefiting from someone’s estate may start to take advantage of their situation and take control of their decision making.

With your assets protected, you may also be less likely to fall victim to elder abuse because a it will make it more difficult for others to have access these assets, such as your accounts or property.

To avoid this, it is important to have a valid Will in place whilst you still have mental capacity and to discuss with you solicitor on different ways to protect your assets and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

In this instance, you will at least have a say over what happens to your assets once you are no longer around and no longer able to speak up for yourself.

Where can I get help?

For older Australians, it is important to seek advice about your rights and access to help and support if you are experiencing or at risk of elder abuse.

Information, support and referrals for anyone experiencing abuse or witnessing the abuse of an older person, you can seek free, anonymous and confidential assistance, 9am–5pm, Monday to Friday, from the Elder Abuse Helpline

  • 1300 651 192 (Queensland only)
  • (07) 3867 2525 (rest of Australia)

If you need assistance with your estate planning, or you have concerns that you, or your elderly family members are being taken advantage of, please feel free to contact us today to discuss your options.

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The information provided in this article is for general information and educative purposes in summary form on legal topics which is current at the time it is published. The content does not constitute legal advice or recommendations and should not be relied upon as such. Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, Wills, Estates and Probate Lawyers (WEP Lawyers) cannot accept responsibility for any errors, including those caused by negligence, in the material. We make no representations, statements or warranties about the accuracy or completeness of the information and you should not rely on it. You are advised to make your own independent inquiries regarding the accuracy of any information provided on this website. WEP Lawyers does not guarantee, and accepts no legal responsibility whatsoever arising from or in connection to the accuracy, reliability, currency, correctness or completeness of any material contained in this article. Links to third party websites or articles does not constitute any endorsement or approval of those sites or the owners of those sites. Nothing in this article should be construed as granting any licence or right for you to use that content. You should consult the third party’s terms and conditions of use in relation to any third-party content. WEP Lawyers disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including liability for negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way. Appropriate legal advice should always be obtained in actual situations.

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Written by—

Duncan MacDougall

Call 07 3035 4077 to speak with our team now