Elder Law

Elder law focuses on the specific legal issues and challenges faced by the elderly. We can help you as you approach this often-vulnerable stage of life, or we can help someone you care about. We can also guide you on appointing a trusted person to help manage your affairs as you age, or to make certain decisions for you if you lose capacity to make those decisions yourself. 

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that enables you to appoint a trusted person (your attorney) to make certain financial and legal decisions on your behalf while you are still alive. You may want a power of attorney to operate for a temporary period, for example, while you are overseas or if you are in hospital and are not able to physically manage your own affairs. 

Alternatively, you may want to prepare an enduring power of attorney in case you lose capacity and are not able to make your own decisions. A person who is worried about losing capacity as they grow older may, for instance, choose to nominate their partner, adult child, or friend to make certain legal and financial decisions. 

If you do not make an enduring power of attorney and lose capacity to make your own decisions, there will be nobody with legal authority to manage your property and financial affairs, for example, your family may have difficulty accessing bank accounts to pay your bills. In such cases, a relative or somebody else may need to apply to have a financial manager appointed through the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

An enduring power of attorney gives a person considerable power over your life and, although attorneys must make decisions that are in your best interests, careful selection of your attorney is crucial. It is important to seek legal advice before entering into these arrangements.

Appointment of Enduring Guardian

An enduring guardian is a person appointed to make certain lifestyle and health decisions on your behalf when you are not capable of making them for yourself. The appointment of enduring guardian only comes into effect if you lose capacity.

Retirement Living

Retirement villages and lifestyle resorts take away some of the worries of home maintenance and can provide physical security as we age. In many cases, the villages will also provide personal care and assistance to older persons with the potential to transition to higher care facilities within the resort as the need arises.

Typically, residents in a retirement village do not purchase title to their accommodation nor do they rent in the same way as homes are rented in the general community. Rather, the resident purchases a right to the benefit of living in the retirement village. 

It is essential for you to understand what you are agreeing to when you move into a retirement village. Village management must provide you with a disclosure statement, residence contract and other documents that will inform you of your rights and responsibilities. A focus on the costs to enter and to exit the arrangement should be considered before signing an agreement and professional advice may be necessary to ensure that the real cost of both entry and exit are understood. 

If you are considering retirement living, we can assist with reviewing and explaining the complex documentation and disclosure material provided by retirement facility operators. We are familiar with some of the different accommodation options in the local area and can provide useful information about the facilities and services available.

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is the exploitation or neglect of an older person. Importantly, elder abuse often occurs in relationships where the elder person should be able to trust the person who is abusing them. Not all elder abuse causes physical harm. In fact, financial abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse of an elder person. 

Financial abuse occurs when a person illegally and improperly uses an elderly person’s financial resources or property for their own or a third party’s benefit. Examples include:

  • Misusing a power of attorney and/or making unauthorised withdrawals from a bank account through an ATM or an internet transfer
  • Depriving an elderly person from accessing their own funds or property
  • Manipulating or coercing an elderly person into gifting or loaning money or transferring assets
  • Putting a person under duress to include certain provisions in a will or to change an existing will
  • Pressuring a person to give a power of attorney or appointment of enduring guardian

A lawyer can help if you are a victim of elder abuse, or suspect somebody you care about is a victim, in which case you can raise your concerns with that person before suggesting a plan to get help and move forward. A lawyer can help prevent further exploitation of the elder person and, if relevant, recover assets that have been misappropriated.

If you need assistance, contact one of our lawyers at [email protected] or call 02 9949 4022 for expert legal advice.