By Angela Harry
Human Rights Commission says top tip for protecting assets is getting independent legal advice!
The issue of elder abuse has received much publicity of late but government officials have warned that many of the cases go undetected because people are too embarrassed to report family members for outright theft or mismanagement of their financial affairs.
In NSW an elder abuse helpline was set up in March of 2013 with a dedicated 1800 free call number 1800 628 221.
Statistics show that as many as 50,000 people aged 65 and over in NSW have experienced some form of abuse or neglect. The helpline provides practical guidance and advice to older people living in the community including information about how to appoint or change a Power of Attorney, speak to Centrelink or their bank if they are concerned about financial abuse and in what instances they should contact police.
Concern for the elderly has also prompted the Human Rights Commission to release an official guide on how retirees can protect themselves from financial abuse. Statistics show that the average Australian couple of 65 is worth $1.1 million. This increase in most parents’ net wealth has resulted in many cases of financial abuse and bullying from family members and children.
Significantly, the top 5 tips for protecting your assets are as follows:-
1. Get independent legal advice – never sign any legal documents under pressure without getting advice about the consequences. You always have a right to get your own independent legal advice;
2. Know what is at stake. If you use your home as security for a loan you risk losing your home and potentially being made bankrupt.
3. Think about whether your family or friends can repay the money. This is important if you are thinking about acting as guarantor loaning money or taking out a loan in your name for someone else to repay.
4. Get it in writing. If you give money to a friend or a family member make it clear in writing whether you intend to give the money as a gift or whether you expect the money to be repaid.
5. Don’t be afraid to say no. You always have the right to protect your own financial security by saying no.
Attwood Marshall has a dedicated Wills & Estates Department which specialises in this complicated area of law. We have assisted many of our elderly and vulnerable clients in circumstances where they have been taken advantage of or where their affairs have been mismanaged by family members or friends. We offer a free initial appointment to any new enquiries in relation to elder law. Please phone our toll free number 1800 621 071 and ask to speak to Lesley or April. We can give you advice over the telephone and help you without necessarily having to physically see you in the first instance. Don’t let things sit any longer! Give us a call now.