Financial elder abuse worsens, lawyer warns

A Gold Coast-based family lawyer has reported a “massive increase” in the number of elderly citizens suffering from financial abuse in recent months.

Federov Lawyers principal Marie Federov said defending elderly parents from adult children coercing relatives into signing new wills is becoming more common.

“We are seeing more seniors coming into our office requesting to have their wills updated while under duress,” she said.

“More often than not the alarm bells start to ring for me, because an adult child comes in with a parent and the child is doing all of the talking, persuading their decision.”

Her firm has turned down around 30 per cent of potential clients due to this kind of behavior, she said, given how much more cognizant they are of increases in such conduct.

Ms Federov is not on the look-out, she said, because older people don’t deserve to be left “high and dry” by their children or other relatives.

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“Sadly, a large number of victims are too afraid or too ashamed to speak up while others fear being isolated from their family,” she explained.

“It’s an extremely difficult situation for anyone to overcome, especially when the abuser is also someone they love and care about.”

National statistics show that nearly 16,000 elderly Australians called abuse helplines in the past year, which represents a “staggering increase” on calls from the previous year, which totaled just over 10,000.

“When people hear of elder abuse, they often assume that it is physical or emotional – but, more recently, we are seeing financial abuse,” she said.

One primary reason for this problem is “inheritance expectation”, which she said is becoming more common for younger people.

“Many people expect to receive assets from their parents and are commonly coercing senior into signing wills or enduring powers of attorney in order to get all of their assets and money prior to the older person’s death. This is considered undue influence and it’s becoming more and more common,” she said.

“Often, people are doing dodgy deals so they can transfer all of the assets and put their parents in a nursing home.”

The Queensland Government recently introduced tougher legislative sanctions for guardians, administrators or those holding power of attorney who are accountable for financial abuse toward seniors, she explained.

Financial elder abuse worsens, lawyer warns
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