Recently Scott Lorback and I presented seminars in the Sunshine Coast libraries to inform the public about issues relating to their wills and estates, powers of attorney documents and also to make the community aware of the prevalence and rise of elder abuse in our community.

My motivation for doing this was due to the increase in legal disputes coming to me that on it’s face appear to be a civil dispute between family members, but in reality is ‘elder abuse’. Elder abuse is an umbrella term that means an ‘act’ that causes ‘harm’ to an ‘older person’ carried out by someone known and ‘trusted’. The clients that come to me for advice and the types of matters are varied but all have similar features.

Most often, but not always, they involve adult children and their parents about land or money. Some relate to disputes about estates, the making of/or disputes about wills or enduring power of attorney documents. I have also had matters relating to other close family members like brothers and sisters or even close friends and carers. Many people are reluctant to discuss these issues because of the closeness of the relationship, particularly where the victim is a parent and the abuse is an adult child.

There are many reasons why this issue is on the rise and my focus is on spreading some basic information to assist people and hopefully avoid it occurring to them, or otherwise let people know where to go and who to talk if they are a facing some form of elder abuse, or suspect it is occurring to someone they know.

A takeaway message I can give is before you enter into some form of family agreement or arrangement whether it be relating to a loan for money or an arrangement about your home or land, ensure it is put in writing and signed, at a minimum! At best you should be getting some form of initial legal advice before entering into such an arrangement. All the matters I have seen could have been avoided or minimised had the client obtained some legal advice first.

If you have entered into a family arrangement and it is not working, talk to someone about it, there are confidential help lines and free services that can assist and/or point you in the right direction and I have provided a list of some below:

Queensland Elder Abuse Prevention Unit
Phone: 1300 651 192

Seniors Relationship Service (Relationships Australia)
Phone: 1300 364 277.

National Seniors Australia

Most states have community legal centres who can provide some initial free confidential advice – on the Sunshine Coast we have the Suncoast Community Legal Service (07) 5443 7827