Financial abuse can have a devastating effect on an elderly person, impacting their living arrangements, their ability to pay bills and possibly even their health. Worryingly, the statistics show perpetrators are most likely related to the victim, often adult children of the victim.
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is conducting an inquiry into elder abuse, and as part of that, will consider a range of proposals with the aim of protecting those who are vulnerable.
One of the areas to be considered by the ALRC is enduring powers of attorney – where a person appoints someone to handle their financial affairs into the future, including if and when they lose capacity to handle their own affairs. One of the most significant proposals being considered is the establishment of a national register of enduring powers of attorney. If the register is established, this could assist by preventing perpetrators of financial abuse from using invalid powers of attorney, including those that have been revoked or created fraudulently. An issue the ALRC will need to grapple with is whether this extra step of registration will deter people from making enduring powers of attorney.
Having an enduring power of attorney in place is important for all adults. It means you decide who will handle your affairs when you are no longer able, and you decide what conditions or limitations you want to put place. However, your choice of attorney is a crucial decision – it has to be someone you can trust implicitly. It’s important when making an enduring power of attorney to get expert legal advice as to the options and the role of the attorney.
You can read more about the inquiry into elder abuse on the ALRC website, including a detailed discussion paper, which can be accessed here. There is a period of consultation, with the ALRC calling on submissions from the community. Those submissions are due by 27 February 2017, with the ALRC aiming to release its final report to the Attorney General in May 2017. We will watch with interest how this develops, because it will become an increasingly prominent issue as our population ages.