Elder law is an area of law that seems to be increasingly under the spotlight. It’s seen as a niche & specialised are of the law, but is one that will affect us all in our old age. Even more so over the next few years with our aging population.
What age defines an Elder?
Typically we refer to an Elder as being 65 years of age and over.
When people enter this period of their lives there is much to think about. They will need to ensure they have a legal and valid will, they’ll need to appoint an Executor and a Power of Attorney, perhaps they’ll make an Advance Health Care Directive, and may need to start thinking about a retirement village or a nursing home.
Elder Abuse and the Government
The Federal Attorney-General, Christian Porter and the Council of Attorneys-General recently announced a national plan to address the increasing incidents of elder abuse. Part of the government’s plan will be to conduct an Australia wide in-depth study into the way that elders are treated across various demographics.
Organisations such as the National Legal Aid (NLA) couldn’t be happier. The aim of the funding will be to assist the growing number of elders being abused by having better access to legal aid that should be readily available to victims. Chairman of NLA, Dr Graham Hill said, “This study will show that growing numbers of socially disconnected elderly Australians are being financially abused by family members, carers and scammers”, he continued, “Australia is one of the lower-funding nations when it comes to per capita spending on legal assistance services”.
“Our nation is on a chronological conveyor belt: every year, more and more people move from the over-60 age group into the over-80 group. As those numbers increase, so too will the incidence of elder abuse,” he said.
What is defined as Elder Abuse?
A significant number of elders are facing issues relating to their day-to-day care from a relative or carer. They may have disputes surrounding their estate, property, bank-accounts and even access to family members. Trying to get access to legal services to address their civil disputes is very challenging indeed.
Elder abuse victim cases can be varied and tend to range from:-
- Internet, Phone or Door-to-door scams
- Dodgy service-people (builders, electricians, mechanics etc)
- Financial Abuse
- Swindled savings or assets by carers or relatives
- Emotional or physical abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Lack of their rights
- Pressure to sell their property
- Coercion to use their assets as guarantor for a relatives home loan
Some elderly people have physical and/or cognitive impairments which can impact decision making capacity and increase their dependence on others. Quite often, appointed Powers of Attorney may not fully comprehend the legal obligations that are imposed on them.
When appointing an attorney, consideration must be given to ensuring that a person is has the appropriate skills to act honestly and with reasonable diligence to avoid any vulnerable position of neglect or abuse.
Around 30% of Australians are born between 1946 and 1954. People are getting older, people are living longer and coupled with falling birth rates – put plainly, we need to look after our elders!
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