Older women at greater risk of elder abuse
With women tending to outlive their male partners statistically and dealing with financial affairs at a time when they’re emotionally vulnerable, older women are more likely to be victims of elder abuse, warns Australian Unity Trustees.
Australian Unity Trustees national manager Anna Hacker said while estate planning is important for men and women, the reality is that women are more likely to feel the impact of badly handled estate planning.
“Statistically, women tend to outlive their male partners and will therefore find themselves in the position of having the deal with joint bank accounts, superannuation death benefits, life insurance lump sums, and so on, on their own, and usually at a time when they are most emotionally vulnerable,” said Ms Hacker.
“Unfortunately, this also means that women are most likely to experience elder abuse, where family members may try to sell their assets without their permission, force them to change their will, or deny them control of their own funds.”
Ms Hacker said a well-prepared estate plan, developed with both partners when they are fit and healthy is one of the best ways of avoiding a worst case scenario and protecting women as they age.
“It’s also the case that women from older generations may not have worked throughout their adult lives, and may have left the finances in the control of their husband.
“Without a well thought-out estate plan, including documentation of all assets and their ownership, such women may find themselves struggling to keep on top of their finances when they are on their own, and potentially even getting into financial difficulties.”
Ms Hacker said some common misunderstandings relate to whether spouses can access joint bank accounts after one person dies, what happens if the bank account, credit card or utilities are just in the husband’s name, and what they should do if their partner’s superannuation death benefit nomination has lapsed.
Previous research from the SMSF Association she said, found that just under half of all SMSF trustees don’t have an estate plan in place should the death of a co-trustee occur.
“Statistically, it is more likely to be women left as the surviving trustee,” she said.
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates. Miranda has also directed SMSF Adviser's print publication for several years.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.