Sadly, the abuser is often a child or grandchild, who prevails upon the elderly person to provide them a benefit that has the effect of diminishing the resources of the elderly person, often at a time when they can least afford it.
The abuse can be direct, such as simply taking money from an account to which the younger person has been given access to assist the elderly person.
It can be subtle, and indirect, such as manoeuvring the elder into financial transactions that are simply unsuitable to the elder, but which are of great benefit to the younger person.
This might be loans to assist with purchasing a property (on little or no interest) or investments in the younger person’s business with limited prospects of repayment.
In a recent example, a child arranged for a parent to purchase a property in joint names, as joint tenants, rather than as tenants in common.
Properties purchased as joint tenants (as is the common practice with married couples) upon the death of one of the co-owners go automatically to the survivor.
The transfer occurs regardless of any statement in a will – effectively passing outside the will.
When the joint tenants are a parent and child, the likelihood is that the child will survive the parent, and thereby inherit the whole property. Where there are other children, that arrangement can have the effect of benefiting the joint tenant child disproportionately in comparison with the other children.
There are remedies available through the law to protect against elder abuse, and in many cases to undo transactions that have been entered into inappropriately, but these matters are complex, and time is always of the essence.
Don Macpherson is an expert in elder law at Brisbane Elder Law issues. Call 1800 961 622 or visit brisbaneelderlaw.com.au