“Elder abuse can be defined as 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. Elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.”
– World Health Organisation (WHO – 2002)
Elder abuse is unfortunately a fairly common problem in Australia. Many elderly citizens find themselves suffering serious financial abuse. In some case the children of these victims, have been known to be the perpetrators.
In one case from 2016, an elderly woman gave power-of-attorney to her son, only for him to siphon the money and leave in debt unable to afford the nursing home he was living in.
In regards to contesting a will, older people are sometimes bullied or manipulated into changing their will against their wishes. It is common victims to be left feeling confused and scared, unsure of their rights.
Unfortunately, financial abuse is not the only type of abuse that elderly people are subject to. There are many examples of nursing home residents finding out that their family members are using their accounts as their own personal bank account.
Why this issue is under-reported is typically due secretive nature of family politics. The victim may not want to see their loved ones brought up on criminal charges, no matter how heinous their actions.
It is also very easy for family members who have gained the trust of their victims to get away with this activity for long periods of time undetected. It is important to notify someone you know immediately if you suspect this type of activity.
Common Examples of Elderly Financial Abuse
The access allowed by family members or caregivers means they are in a position to abuse their power. Some examples of abusive practices may include:
- The victim may be coerced to sign away money or assets, this may include signing away their home and then the abuser using the home in the meantime;
- The victim’s signature may be stolen and used to falsely file financial documents;
- The victim may be influenced into changing aspects of their will;
- The abuser may take power-of-attorney and therefore exert more influence;
- Money may be borrowed and never returned.
Signs of Elder Financial Abuse to Watch Out For
The signs of financial abuse is difficult to spot. Some early warning signs are listed below, and may be an indication that the person in question is being exploited:
- Family members trying to unduly influence the victim, including encouraging them to change their will;
- Frequently changing their mind about their power of attorney;
- A severe lack of funds for basic day to day items;
- The disappearance of jewellery and other expensive personal items;
- Anxiety or fear when talking about financial assets;
- Unexplained expenses or withdrawals from bank account;
- Unpaid accounts or bills;
- The victim may begin to show a lack of trust towards others around them.
Avoiding Financial Abuse
Appointing a trustworthy power-of-attorney is one the best ways to empower potential victims of financial abuse. If able to, potential victims may also wish to keep a close eye on their finances.
Elder financial abuse the potential to damage individuals whilst they are at their most vulnerable. It is the responsibility of the community to watch out for any suspicious activity.
If you would like to revise your will, contact a local lawyer today. There are a variety of things to consider producing a will. Contesting a will is more common than you would think. By making your wishes as clear as possible you may avoid issues arising when you are gone.
If you believe that someone deceased has been unduly influenced, and their will is not legitimate. Contesting a will is something you may be able to file for. This process can be draining, and the Courts tend to favour the wishes of the testator expressed through the will.
If you have sufficient evidence contact a lawyer today so as not to let the time period by which the will can be contested pass.
If you or a family member is experiencing this kind of abuse, remember you are not alone and immediately seek legal advice, as well as reporting any suspicions to the police. There are also many organisations that can help provide assistance if needed.