Our estate planning and dispute resolution teams are all too often, and increasingly, acting to rescue seniors from falling victim to trusted family or friends crossing the line from “helping” to “helping myself”. Often these people are referred to us from concerned professionals – investment advisers, accountants, aged care professionals – who see that something is just not right in the way a person in their care (and that person’s property) is being dealt with by those closest to them.
It’s something that no one believes will happen to them, but statistics reveal that so-called “elder abuse” is an issue of mounting concern in Australian society as our population grows and ages.
Each Australian State has laws which regulate this area, with varying degrees of effectiveness. There are increasing calls for reforms nationally to promote the dignity and autonomy of older people, supported by initiatives to provide those older people with protection and put in place safeguards. The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) launched its report “Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response” on 15 June 2017, coinciding with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Commission report introduces 43 recommendations, which are recommended reading for every professional working in this area.
Notable proposals include a national register for enduring documents such as powers of attorney, and amendments to the Code of Banking Practice to require banks to take reasonable steps to prevent the financial abuse of vulnerable customers.
The federal government’s response to these recommendations will be critical in safeguarding the freedoms and rights of – in particular – baby boomers and future generations of ageing Australians. In the meantime, individuals can take proactive steps to safeguard their rights as they age. A lawyer experienced in succession planning can support you to make decisions about your future and prepare documents to protect your wishes.
Stay tuned for more tips from the experienced team at HHG Legal Group on protecting yourself and others from elder abuse.