Currently, the Australian Law Reform Commission is conducting an
inquiry and report on the existing laws and frameworks which seek
to safeguard and protect older persons from misuse or abuse by
formal and informal carers, supporters, representatives and
According to the Elder Abuse Prevention
Unit, the definition of "elder abuse" as adopted by
the World Health Organisation and the International Network for the
Prevention of Elder Abuse is "a single or repeated act, or
lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where
there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to
an older person".
One form of Elder Abuse is financial abuse. An example of
financial abuse is a situation where funds may have been improperly
attained by a person who has abused the trust of an older
Often people delay to plan ahead and become frail or
incapacitated without having considered their future accommodation
needs or health care options and the financial consequences of
those options. By this time, they cannot make decisions concerning
these matters because of incapacity. This may expose the elderly
person to exploitation by a person who was formerly trusted.
To prevent financial abuse, a person should make an enduring
power of attorney which allows for the appointment of one or two
capable trusted people as attorneys to act in financial matters
either from the date it is signed, or from when the person loses
capacity to make decisions themselves. The power of attorney can
impose certain conditions on the attorneys, for example requiring
two attorneys to act jointly to carry out large transactions or on
the sale of property, or to submit annual accounting records to
your accountant for audit.
Other safeguards to prevent financial abuse include, for
example, storing original legal documents such as the Certificate
of Title to property, a power of attorney and appointment of
enduring guardian in safe custody. Carroll & O'Dea offer
such a service without charge. Banks, authorities and personal
advisers can work with certified copies.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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