Elderly parents are at risk of abuse by their money-hungry children - according to the Australian Law Reform Commission which is seeking to establish a national register of people holding Powers of Attorney.
Current Australian laws enable you to give someone else the legal authority to look after affairs on your behalf. This is known as Powers of Attorney, and can be useful for managing financial and legal affairs if you’re out of the country, unwell, or in the event of your death.
However, this system is also vulnerable to abuse, according to the ALRC.
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In what is described in their report as ‘early inheritance syndrome’, the ALRC’s findings focus in on scenarios where children manipulate their parents to get more money from them as they age.
President of the ALRC, Rosalind Croucher describes Powers of Attorney as ‘license to steal’, and says it’s part of a growing problem of elder abuse in Australian society.
Professor Croucher is advocating for the introduction of safeguards such as requiring the presence of a doctor or lawyer when Powers of Attorney documents are signed.
Also people who are carers, bankrupt, or a criminal history involving fraud or dishonesty would be unable to hold enduring Powers of Attorney.
To reduce the risk of financial abuse, the ALRC also advises that two people should be required to approve access to a person’s bank account.