Legal Issues Affecting Senior Citizens
As Australia’s population is ageing, there is an expanding need for expert legal services tailored specifically to the issues affecting the elder community and their loved ones, which has seen a growth in Elder law services. Elder law focuses on the rights, responsibilities and legal issues that concern or predominantly affect, elder or senior people.
It generally addresses four main areas of concern, long-term health care issues, the management of personal affairs, elder abuse and estate planning and administration.
Elder law often involves the inclusion of other professionals such as financial planners, accountants, medical practitioners and aged care nurses.
How can we help?
Some of the common elder law work that we can assist you with includes:
- Estate Planning including the preparation of Wills, Powers of Attorneys, and Guardianship documents;
- The appointment of alternate decision makers in the event of incapacity through Enduring Guardianships or Enduring Powers of Attorney and/or advanced care directives;
- Capacity concerns affecting the ability of an elderly person to make decisions and sign legal documents;
- Contractual advice relating to accommodation including retirement villages or nursing homes;
- Advice relating to disputes, abuse or discrimination to elders and their rights;
- Financial abuse committed on elders;
- Advice on challenging a Will;
- Advice on financial disputes with businesses, banks, family and friends;
- Advice and claims against financial advisers for inappropriate investment advice;
Elder Financial Abuse
Elder financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an elder person’s property, finances or other assets by another person with whom they generally have a relationship with, including a family member, friend or carer. It usually occurs in circumstances where the older person is vulnerable, lonely, frail or isolated and is susceptible to abuse.
Some examples of elder financial abuse include:
- Misappropriation of property, money or valuables. This can range from the loss of money by removing cash from a wallet, to the cashing of cheques for large amounts of money, loss of jewellery, silverware, paintings or other furniture;
- Forced changes to a Will or other legal document – the making of a new Will in favour of a new friend or another family member.
- Power of Attorney may be obtained improperly from a person without decision-making capacity.
- Denial of the right to access personal funds – A family member may take control of a person’s finances or banking, while the older person is still capable of maintaining their affairs.
- Forging of signatures – on bank accounts or legal documents to gain a financial benefit to the detriment of the elder person;
- Misusing Enduring Power of Attorney and wasting the elder’s funds improperly or not for their benefit;
- Going grocery shopping and not returning the change;
- Using an elder person’s property to obtain a Mortgage or Finance;
- Encouraging an elder to sell their home or lend a person money, with a promise to look after them for life or to provide them with alternative accommodation, and then failing to do so.
Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is often uncovered by family members and is never noticed by the elder. However, professionals, including lawyers and accountants, may also be able to identify or suspect elder financial abuse of their clients.
Elder Law Resources
Some resources which may assist you with your Elder Law issues include:
- NSW Government Capacity Toolkit;
- Older Women’s Network New South Wales;
- Elder Abuse Prevention Unit;
If you would like some assistance with an Elder Law issue or would like to discuss any Elder law issues further, contact Rockliffs Lawyers.