Increase in financial elder abuse in Australia
Australia has an ageing population and people are living longer than ever before. As a consequence there are a growing number of cases involving elder abuse in Australia. Elder abuse may involve physical, emotional, social or financial abuse. In the area of wills and estates, financial elder abuse has become an increasing and significant problem. Financial elder abuse may result in a person obtaining access to bank accounts, share portfolios and other legal documents.
Financial elder abuse often occurs through the misuse of Powers of Attorney or Enduring Guardian which enables an abuser to make certain decisions for another person, often a family member. They are in a position where they could commit a fraud, steal money and transfer real estate.
In a recent case Sydney Wills Lawyer acted in, our 90 year old client had been the victim of financial elder abuse by her adult niece. Our client lived alone and did not have any children. Her niece had an enduring power of attorney, which enabled her to have access to our client’s bank accounts. However, she began to misuse the power of attorney to distribute money to herself. Our client’s niece also had access to our client’s Certificate of Title for her property. The niece also took share certificates from our client’s house and set up an online account for those shares. This is despite the fact that our client did not consent or give permission for her to do so.
Sydney Wills Lawyer was able to rectify this situation for our client by applying for a new certificate of title, drafting and appointing a new power of attorney and enduring guardian and liaising with the share registry to close down the online account set up fraudulently by her niece. Our client also instructed us to draft a new Will to ensure that her testamentary wishes were properly documented. She also regained security and privacy over her bank accounts.
This case highlights the importance of appointing a power of attorney or enduring guardian that you trust to ensure that the power given to that person will not be misused. The legal profession also has an important role to play, in ensuring a person’s testamentary wishes are carried out and also to assess whether an elderly person is being unduly influenced or pressured by a family member or friend to sign testamentary and legal documents.
Sydney Wills Lawyer are expert wills and estates lawyers, the principal of the law practice, Graeme Heckenberg has over 25 years’ experience in this area of law. If you or someone you know are concerned about financial elder abuse and want to know more information or need help or advice, please contact us on (02) 9221 2779 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment with our expert legal team.
Our offices are located in Sydney, CBD and are close to public transport.