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Be aware and avoid elder abuse

The statistics on elder abuse are alarming, with almost 15% of older Australians estimated to be suffering elder abuse each year. The actual numbers are probably higher, as it is likely that not all cases are reported. This abuse often involves the misuse of an older person’s finances and assets by family members – often driven by ‘inheritance impatience’.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day occurs on 15 June. This day reminds us to be aware and look for signs of elder abuse. But it also reminds us to review our own family arrangements.

Families can provide great support as we age. We might need to pass control and access to financial decisions to family members, who may or may not put our interests first. This article looks at some simple steps you can take to help minimise potential risks.

Choose your EPoA carefully

Give careful consideration on who you appoint as your enduring power of attorney (EPoA). Try to pick someone you think is most aligned with your views and life values, who has the time and willingness to undertake the role if needed. Someone acting as EPoA will need to:

  • Act in your interests, not their own
  • Put themselves in your shoes to decide what decisions you would make
  • Keep your assets separate from their own, and
  • Keep accurate records of all actions taken and how they made decisions.

If you want to nominate more than one person to be your EPoA, think about how well they get along and whether they will be able to agree and make decisions.

Always seek legal advice to draw up your power or attorney documents. A good lawyer may cost a bit more, but it can be money well spent to avoid family conflicts and misuse of the powers.

Family discussion

Once you have made the decision on EPoA, have a family meeting. Take your family through what is important to you, why you have made the decisions you have and what you would like to see happen in the future.

This might help family understand the ‘whats and whys’ and minimise disputes in the future. It may also give the person who takes on the EPoA role some guidelines to direct their decisions.

Don’t leave your family on their own. If you have a financial planner, introduce your family to the planner so they can start to build a relationship (or find a planner you can start to work with). Afterall, your planner is someone you trust to help with financial decisions and who already knows what objectives you have for your financial future. Financial advice can provide valuable and objective support for an EPoA to ensure appropriate financial decisions are made.

If problems arise

If you or someone you know seems to be experiencing elder abuse, reach out to the Elder Abuse Help Line on 1800 353 374.

If you want to know more about planning ahead for your older years, contact us today to discuss how we can help.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is general and does not take into account your particular circumstances. We recommend specific tax or legal advice be sought before any action is taken and refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before investing in any product. Current at 1 June 2023.

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