13 November 2019

Making sure power is in the right hands

It’s Seniors’ Week, and while we celebrate the older members of our community and their valuable contribution to society we must also cast our minds to the areas in which our seniors are particularly vulnerable.

Earlier this year, it was reported that calls to Advocare’s WA Elder Abuse Help Line in the 2018-19 financial year had risen by more than 23% on the previous year, with the majority of calls relating to financial abuse, usually perpetrated by a trusted friend or relative. In this article by Advocare’s chief executive Diedre Timms, we are reminded that it is up to all of us to be vigilant in the fight against elder abuse.

It is encouraging that the financial sector is taking positive steps towards policies that will aid in the recognition and prevention financial abuse, and it is a responsibility that we in the legal industry share. Enduring powers of attorney can be invaluable documents in the proper management of a person’s affairs, especially as we age and become more reliant on the assistance of others.

It must always be remembered however that in order to achieve that utility they necessarily convey an unprecedented power to another person, which is where a temptation can arise for the people bestowed with that power to exploit it for anything from using the ATM card for the odd fuel or grocery run for themselves, to transferring the family home into their own name and clearing out the bank accounts. For this reason, it is essential that we choose the right person to act in this powerful role, and that documents are prepared correctly and with proper legal advice as to their effect.

Even with careful consideration and advice around who to appoint as a power of attorney, sometimes things go wrong. This is where we all have a responsibility, no matter our profession, to look out for the older members of our society and take action where we suspect something untoward may be going on, whether that requires us to simply voice our concerns and seek further information, to get in touch with the Elder Abuse Help Line on
1300 724 679 for guidance, or where appropriate to make an application to the State Administrative Tribunal for orders.

Ultimately, we join in Diedre Timms’ plea, and encourage anyone suspicious of any type of elder abuse to speak up and take action.

Andrew Bower began his legal career as a law clerk in 2008, whilst studying a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in finance at Murdoch University.