Five red flags of financial elder abuse
1 February 2023
For many Queenslanders the summer months are about spending quality time with family and friends – and for those of us who are beach goers to spend time between the red and yellow flags at our favourite beaches.
However, while this can bring families together, I’m hoping this year we might also see it as a time to highlight some red flags about the growing prevalence of financial elder abuse.
Over the years the Queensland Public Trustee, and a range of other key support health, welfare and legal agencies, have been seeing signs of financial elder abuse becoming more common.
As the state’s population continues to age this is likely to be something all families will need to consider. To assist the Public Trustee has identified 5 red flags to watch out for.
Using intimidating, harassing, and/or threatening behaviour to force or coerce an elderly person to enter into transactions they would not otherwise make which financially disadvantages them - like transferring assets (an ‘early inheritance’). This could also be providing a guarantee on a mortgage or entering into a Reverse Mortgage to financially benefit a third party or entering into a granny flat arrangement to be “looked after” at home and not sent to an aged care facility.
Denying someone the right to make their own financial decisions or access their own funds by withholding debit/credit cards or taking control of financial matters under a Power of Attorney and conducting transactions not for the benefit of the person (“mum wanted me to have it”). Threatening to withdraw care and support or place the person in an aged care facility if financial control is not given.
Undue influence / coercion
Persuading an elderly person to change their Will or estate plan or make a binding death benefit nomination to benefit certain persons.
Emotional and/or physical abuse
Physically abusing an elderly person, stopping them from seeing their friends or family or neglecting their physical, medical or emotional needs. This can cause them to become frail, withdrawn and isolated, and further dependant on the “support” offered by the abuser.
Taking advantage of someone when delivering paid services, like overcharging for home maintenance.
If you – or someone you know – is experiencing elder abuse, know that you aren’t alone and support is available. Call the Elder Abuse hotline on 1300 651 192 for confidential information, support and referrals.
You can also put protections in place by getting independent legal advice to make a Will and putting an enduring power of attorney (EPA) and advanced health directive in place. Make decisions in your EPA about the types of decisions you would like made if you lose decision-making capacity – like your preferred living arrangements. Choose two people you trust to act in your best interests and direct them in your EPA to consult with each other when carrying out duties. Ensuring any loans are legally binding.
These may not always be easy conversations for families to have, but we all have a social responsibility to identify the flags and act to protect our most vulnerable.
Samay Zhouand is the Public Trustee of Queensland